Remembering Toshi Otaka

I’ve spent the past few days remembering Toshio Otaka, aka Toshi, an ITP student who graduated in 1997 and who died of liver cancer on January 16, 2001. I believe he was 34 when he died.

ITP (Interactive Telecommunications Program) is a graduate program at NYU. (I’m from the class of 1989.)

There was a big party this weekend celebrating ITP’s 30th anniversary and Toshi’s name came up. Everyone who knew him liked him, and people who knew him well loved him. Toshi interned at Echo in 1996 and because I was his “boss” I had a more formal relationship to him, but I came to love him through his online diary, which I will get to in a second.

Tom Igoe, a classmate of Toshi’s (who now teaches at ITP) recently turned over a table and uncovered this reminder that Toshi had been there.


Toshi was so proud of having gone to ITP. He described it as “the hottest institution in the world pursuing multimedia field” on his diary, and on his resume he put: Graduated with departmental award for “Pioneering Work in Interactive Media.” The first Japanese student who got the award in the more than-20-year program’s history.

That award meant a lot to him.

I read though all of Toshi’s online diary yesterday and made myself cry. His death is hitting me harder now than it did at the time and it really upset me at the time. I was sad then, but it feels inexcusably tragic and wrong now. I think I appreciate more how short a time we have to begin with and how much people who die young are gypped.

But he was just so sweet and special. That gets said about a lot of people, and maybe a lot of people deserve to be described that way, but I’m telling you. This guy was something else. Sweetness and specialness at a whole other level. I’m going to prove it shortly.

It kills me that he didn’t get to have a family (he wanted one) and to grow old with them. It kills me that he didn’t get to do all the things he wanted to do, and he had a lot of dreams. It kills me that he didn’t get to come back to New York. He really loved it here.

He had hoped that he’d get to stay in New York for a little while after he graduated, but his company wanted him back right away and he felt he had to respect their wishes. (He was the Webmaster and a Staff Editor at “Nikkei Entertainment!” magazine, which was published by Nikkei Business Publications, Inc.)

This is his very last post from his online diary:

May 31, 1997

Order Coke

I was on the plane on May 31st, 1997. The seat I was sitting on was on a business class, Club ANA. I upgraded my economy class ticket. It must be really comfortable to sit on a wider seat than those in ecomony class but I didn’t have enough room in my mind to feel that comfortability. That is not to say that I was very sad at that time because I had to leave this country, I thought. I could not name my feeling which I had then. I had a very weird feeling.

I ordered a glass of champaigne to a stewerdess. With a graceful smile, she brought it which was mild pink. With sipping it, I was reading the New York Post in which Irabu, a Japanese New York Yankees’ pitcher, was introduced to be a member of the team. His smiling picture was on the cover.

“I am leaving. Irabu is comming…two Japanese, different lives,” I thought.

The article reminded me of the article which I had read on the plane just coming to JFK from Narita. In the paper, Nikkei Newspaper, I remember Mr. Yasuhiro Taze, one of the greatest journalists, wrote about Hideo Nomo. Mr. Taze had specialized in politics but he tried to picture the difference between Japanese culture and US’s by depicting what Nomo, Japanese only then Major Leager, was doing in the US. He had been chosen as a member of the all star games at that time. US is better when it comes to develop their own ability as a person or whatever. I forgot the detail of it, but what I had thought then was the day I was comming to the US, July 3rd, 1995, one Japanese pitcher was finally considered to be a real major league player, which had encouraged me a lot.

Irabu followed Nomo. Both of them are really great. On the other hand, do I have to say I am just an ordinary man compared to them? I don’t know. But nobody can not deny the fact that I am always playing the main role in my own life.

Probably what I was being on the plane heading for Narita was sentimentalist. I don’t know.

It took seemingly 20 minutes after the plane’s taking off. I felt like drinking coke. When I ordered it, tears suddenly droped from my both eyes. The waitress probably recognized it but pretend not recognizing it. I didn’t understand why tears were comming out. I didn’t feel I was crying. I just felt my tears on the cheeks were hot. Then, I finally realized the name of my weird feeling that I had had that day after waking up was sadness.

She brought a coke with a smile.
Cheers to an American symbol, Coca-Cola!

The post before was heartbreaking, just because of his obvious pride about all the fellow students who came to say goodbye to him the night before. Those of us who knew about his diary followed it avidly. The charm and heart of it is just incredible. It was written up in the Wall Street Journal, among other places, and he was interviewed on NPR.

It used to be when you first went to his diary you’d see the headline:

“It’s PRIVATE! Nevertheless, You’ll Keep Reading, Won’t You?”

You can explore his entire diary here, but a sample follows.

I went through it with the intention of pulling a few entries to give people an idea of what it was like and ended up pulling a ton. I’ve kept them as is, typos and all, but I inserted paragraph breaks just to make it easier to read.

Thank you Tom Igoe for the photograph and for helping me track down when Toshi died (thank you as well Marianne Petit and Midori Yasuda).

A very, very special thank you to Matt Davis for sharing Toshi’s last emails with me and for the pictures (which are from Matt and Dana’s wedding), and to Nancy Lewis for fixing the broken links in Toshi’s diary so we can still read it and remember the very wonderful and amazing Toshi Otaka.

Rest in peace Toshi. We miss you.


4/5 Friday

I went to Nihon-Jin Kai, or Japan Community, to see a movie called “New York Geisha.” I’ve rather hesitated to be involved in a Japanese community in New York because I want to be more communicate with Americans. This thought is a kind of common for Japanese. Other Asians living in New York, like Chinese, might think it’s strange because they rather tend to keep their relationship with the same nationality’s people.

There are two reasons that I went there. One is I was interested in the theme of the movie, which is directed by Etsuko Kizawa, a free director, as a final thesis of the School of Visual Arts. It focuses on waitresses at the piano bar in Midtown, which is a kind of a club where men can act like a king. It’s interesting to slice a pattern of life of waitresses, which is rather not known by so many people. After the film, we had a discussion with the director. The most striking me is that they did in English! It was strange for me. Or am I a strange man? Why did they use English? It was because there are some non-Japanese, less than five though, or they wanted to express their English Speaking ability? I don’t understand.

The other reason is that I want to see Mr. Hiro Takenaga. He is making a weekly free paper in New York called ” Nuts” by himself. Every time I read it, I feel as if he is a kind of man like me, more precisely like me when I was a low teen or early twenties. He is aggressive, and have something hot in his mind. He is almost the same age as me. I found him at the place. But I didn’t talk to him. Something in me made me hesitate to speak to him.

4/7 Sunday

I finally had my homepage up to ITP server. Mike had it made the link to ITP people’s page. Anyone over the world can access to my own page! I wanna keep doing experimental things on it.

By the way today is shorter than ordinally day, for the summer time has begun. I’m not accustomed to such a kind of time change. So I missed a TV program that I’d been looking forward to seeing.

4/15 Monday

I saw a very beautiful woman in front of a Tisch’s elevator. I wanted to talk to her, but I couldn’t. We took the elevator together, and she pushed bottun “6.” OK. she must be a student of Perfomance Studies.

Sunrise Mart
Bolognese $3.99*2
white bread 2.85
Ebisu lamen 2.45
rice ball 1.25
amount 14.53(inc. tax)

Roring Rock(*6, can) 4.79
can deposit .30
Potato chips(Lays) 1.49
amount 6.98(inc. tax)
breakfast : grapefruit juice only
lunch : ham sandwich(2.75), macaroni salad(1.2) & Snapple Just Plain Tea(1.25)
dinner : Daikichisushi chiken soba(4.49), anago sushi(2.40)

Kris bandaged an arm because she was bitten by her mother’s cat. It reminded me my accident when I was in Bali, I was bitten by a dog and went to the biggest hospital there. A French woman acreamed seeing me, “dog fever!, dog fever!” Because of this incident, I couldn’t swim there.

4/19 Friday

Echo’s party day at the Knitting Factory! I got there before 4 o’clock to help Quinn. Tom and Mike were already there to set CUSeeME stuff. At 8 o’clock Echo’s 6th anniversary party began. There are so many people, I guess it was over three hundred, maybe more than four hundred, coming. I worked as a door man for a while.
Mr. Kidera and his female friend came from Tokyo just to attend this party. I don’t know their real relationship, though.

4 bands performed. Refuseniks seems like Tama. I like Lianne Smith, Suzanne Vega taste singer. WCT was real funny. The vocal was like David Lee Ross. I don’t mean the person at Whitney Museum. Nada Surf’s Bryan Adams taste singer was real nice.

I was there until 2 am. I realized that NY is so fantastic city.

5/7 Tuesday

Went to the NYU’s Bobst Library, not ITP library, with Derek to finish our final report at the tech class by Robin. But we couldn’t finish it. So we went back to my apartment and continued writing it until around 4:30am. Writing, writing, writing, but can’t finish. It reminds me the situation when I was a staff editor at a weekly magazine.

I e-mailed Quinn to ask him for me to come to Echo to be late. BTW, it’s correct English? I was shoked to be told by Derek that my English hasn’t been improved ANY MORE! As it is, I feel like I can’t speak English well these days. That might be because I hung out with Japanese friends last weekend and talked only Japanese much.

In the elevetor in my apartment, a couple was talking something. I didn’t understand at all, but Derek completely understood. According to him, a man said to a woman that because there was no sign of No Smoking in the elevator he wanted to smoke. That’s why she laughed. I understand he said this joke to relax the woman. It must be the first night for them.

If I understood absurd conversations like this, my world would become much bigger. But conversations like this are much harder to understand than listening to a lecture in the school. Stuart’s jokes he always says in the Director class are not funny because I can’t understand them.

Derek understands how tough it is to master English because he is Chinese from Hong Kong. His words to me must have not insult. He just must have said to cheer me up. I’m certain the best way to improve my English is to make a girl friend like Derek does.

5/8 Wednesday

As soon as I went to Echo, Stacy told me she wanted to read this journal. And she and Josh started reading it in front of me. Although I was ashamed, I was also glad to be applauded.

However, it’s a big issue for me that Stacy likes my journal. That is because she is not only President of ECHO, where I’m working, but also one of the faculties at ITP. I’m wondering whether I should erase the journal of May 4th. But I shouldn’t. The origin of the word “journalism” is “journal.” I have a journalism background. To erase documents of the past should be censured.

[This is the part from his 5/4 entry that he was probably nervous about me reading:

Then he and I went to TEN’S , which was a night club where a woman dances in front of us. It was the first time for me to go to that kind of place. I was a little bit scared but, to tell the truth, it was very fun because I am a man! Klistol, Jeniffer, Marissa and J-something were so nice. I talked with Marissa for a while, who came to New York 2 days ago from Huston to work there and will go back in two weeks. The first woman who danced for me was the best, I think. That is because it was the “first” and she was really good. I regret I didn’t ask her her name. So I put it down here as a journal for sure just for my sweet memory. It’s a sort of the strength of journal.

Arizona 206 and Cafe and Ten’s are kind of the place where I haven’t gone since I came to New York. It’s a very valuable day for me because I got to know and experienced new world that I haven’t known. I do think that I should experience many kinds of things as possible as I can during I’m staying here in Manhattan. I spent much money, though.]

5/12 Sunday

I was invited to the concert of New York Youth Symphony at Carnegie Hall by Ms. Miyako Yoshinaga.

It was the box seat on the second floor just in front of the stage. She introduced me to the smployees at the Brooklyn Museum and so on. I was a little bit nervous because they looked so rich. They are patrons of arts. One of the man was putting on Chan-Chan-Ko or Japanese traditional unofficial jacket. It was funny. Acording to Miyako, he is a collector of Japanese earthenware.

The average age of the members of the orchestra is only 16. I felt the passion from pieces of music. I donated $10 to help them financially. I became a kind of patron today.

New York Youth Symphony
Miguel Harth-Bedoya, music director and conductor

Elegy for String Orchestra
Subliminal Trauma
Symphony No.9 in D minor with final chorus on Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” Op. 125

6/1 Saturday

I saw a street musician at Prince Street on Broadway. I was moved because his style of drumming was very energetic although he was only using some buckets and kitchen tools.

Many pedestrians were watching him and a lot of them donated money. I was wondering whether I should donate money as well, but I didn’t. I haven’t set my position to donation yet. I think if you donate to someone, it means you have a responsibility to the person whom you donated. I don’t have a courage to have responsibility yet.

When I think of donation, it always reminds me the movement of USA for Africa. More than a decade ago, people were promoted to donate to starving and dying Africans by the professional musicians singing “USA for Africa.” Many agreed to the idea.

However, who does continue to donate to Africans now in spite of many Africans are dying and starving still now ? Who are taking care of them?

Around five years ago, donation to save forests in South America was a trend. Now it’s a trend to donate AIDS patients to help.

Donation should not be just a trend, even not to be a fad even if you give money to street musicians.

8/12 Monday

Fan Letter and registration to Echo’s BBS.

Stacy and Quinn e-mailed me. But Josh didn’t. Why…

8/13 Tuesday

The call from Aureore woke me up. The woman who is in charge of reservation made sure my reservation at 6 today. But I didn’t reserve seats today at all. I centainly had a reservation just a week ago and had dinner there. At that day befor going to the restaurant I called there to confirm my reservation, but a man who took the phone couldn’t find my name at the list. I guess my name was written in the today’s list, instead of August 6th’s. They should have checked whether my name was in a different place when I called them. What made me pissed off is she didn’t say “I’m sorry” or “I apologize.” She just said “it’s OK” as if she was thinking I made a mistake. It’s not OK with me! This restaurant is the 3rd popular one among New Yorkers according to Zagat. And it’s one of the best 10 restaurants in terms of service. I’m not a kind of a man who thinks customers are always 100% right, but in this case she should have apologized to me. I couldn’t help call her back and hear her apology to me. And she did. Not a good begining of the day for me, and maybe not a good begining of work for her.

8/25 Sunday

I didn’t know there is such a beautiful beach in NY.

There was a topless beach at the east side. The most surprising thing is there were so many gay couples, one of them I saw was bottomless. They were deeply kissing everywhere. Honestly I don’t have a much room in my mind to accept this scene as a ordinary thing yet because I come from the country where gay is very rare, at least publicly. When I used the word “abnormal” as a sexual term, my friend who is gay asked me not to use this word because he said there is no abnormal things relating to sexual behavior. I thank him.

Joe Rosen unexpectedly e-mailed to me, saying “how much i enjoyed reading them (and looking at your photographs too). your journal is one of the most original and entertaining things i’ve ever found on the web (it’s a real life drama!)”.
I’m happy, because he is one of my best favorite teachers in ITP. However, he won’t teach us next semester because, according to Stacy, he got a job at west coast. What is a job which is more valuable than education? I wish I would learn Java more from him.

Today is the anniversary of my grandmother’s, cha-chan, death.
I wish I could meet her again…

10/31 Thursday

I hate the words such as “asshole,””fuckin'”… I’m accustomed to hearing “shit,” though. But I can’t help shouting, “HE IS AN ASSHOLE!!”
I was suspected of a theft.

On my way going back to my apartment from the Hallowin Party at Federico’s apartment (I was thinking to go to Mike’s party at Williamsburg in Brooklyn but I was feeling lousy and gave up this idea), I took a cab. When I got out and tried to go to a deli to buy bananas, the cab driver called to me from his driver’s seat with the door open. I went toward him with suspicious mind. Then, all of a sudden, he seized my bag and pulled it toward him forcefully and said strongly, “it’s not yours. When you got on, you didn’t have it.” What the hell? It was, has been, and is my bag if the sun goes up from the west. He suspected me of a theft who stole a bag which a customer before I got on forgot to take. I also shouted “it’s mine!!!!!!” and pulled it back toward me, of course. I saw a patrol car and shouted “OK, call a police. POLICE!” A patrol car went away without noticing… But he seemed to be bewildered. I shouted, ” apologize to me!” He never did. The customer who got on as soon as after I got off remained the seat, and one of the three customers seemed to say to the driver like “applogize to him.” I tried to open my bag and prove it was my bag, then he finally seemed to realize it MIGHT be my bag. I said, “Give back the tip! A dollar!” He gave it back to me. But he never apologize to me. And went away with taking customers.

Then, a staff at the deli who had been watching this controvercy asked me, “what happened?” I explained. He sympathized to me and treated me a cup of coffee. It tasted bitter but hot.

My anger hasn’t been suppressed. I called to the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission but no one answered.

I will never forgive him unless he officially apologize to me from the bottom of his heart.

I hate theft, cheating, and injustice…
but, I was falsely accused of theft.

DATE: 10/31/96 Thu. Halloween Day
TIME:around 23:05(got on)~23:15(got off)
PLACE:44th St. near the cross of 8th Ave(got on) to 13th St. on 5th Ave.(got off)
Driver: around 60 years old, rather thin, maybe Indian or Pakistan, skin color was dark
FEE:around $5.85( and gave him $7($10 bill and got $3 as change), but, afterwards, gave back $1.

OTHER CHARACTERISTICS: He asked me where I was going to go before riding. If I had said a different destination, he would have refused. It’s illegal. The window between between front seat and customers seat remained closed firmly. When I got off, he never said “thank you” nor anything. He had many bills in his porch put around his west. It took much time to give me 3 dollars change when I gave 10 dollars bill and also took time to give back 1 dollar bill.

WITNESSES: The staff of the deli at the south-east corner of 13th Street and 5th Street, Three customers getting on the cab when I got off (Two black men and one black woman)

11/11 Monday

Digital School Processes Registration in An Analog Way
Greenwich Village, Nov.11–Registration season begins. Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP, Chair, Ms. Red Burns), one of the most prestegious graduate schools in multimedia field, at New York University starts taking appointments from a hundred eighty students for the registration for the next semester. Before 9:30am when the process began, more than 15 students had come to school to fill in thier names in the waiting list to get classes they longed for. Here is the United States, first-come first-serve basis country. It is necesary to come early to guarantee to take popular classes, such as Dan O’sullivan’s “Pysical Computing Class,” who is very respected by students because of his wide range of knowledge about computers from software to hardware and taking care of students very well, John thompson’s “Lingo in Director,” who is a inventor of Lingo, which is indispensable for today’s multimedia field, Mike Cosaboom’s World Wide Web classes, and Java programinng class (despite the popularity of this language, only one class is provided now). But strangely the classes which will be available yet to be announced. There are some rumors among students as follows. Lisa, who just graduated from ITP six months ago, will start teaching web design class, and a Japanese man, who is said to be a boyfriend of one of the students, are invited as faculty, etc. But a rumor is nothing but a rumor. The truth might not be revealed until several hours before the registration begins next week.

11/15 Friday

Michael Jackson at McDonalds
If American ITPers happens to meet Michael Jackson at McDonalds in front of Tisch Building, they must be surprised and hasitate to ask for autographs or something, because It’s easy to guess that Michael Jackson must not to be seen by fans when he’s having a Bic Mac there.

The story I experienced today was like that. I happend to meet Toshi Kubota at Daikichisushi, cheap Japanese first food-like reataurant. He’s a superstar for Japanese. The No.1 hit song last year in Japan is written and performed by him. Precisely, while I was eating Udon, he also bought udon and sushi and sit down very close to me. I was on dilemma if I should say hallo or just pretend not to notice him. I interviewed him 5 years ago for NIkkei Entertainment and I happened to meet him 5 months ago near Starbacks coffee and talked with him a litte bit. But it was obvious he didn’t want to be noticed. I decided in my mind if he didn’t take off his sunglasses while he was eating hot udon even if they were dim, I wouldn’t talk to him, otherwise I would say hello.
He took off them and started eating udon with sounds. I felt intimacy to him and said hello to him. And I said, “I, as a Japanese, am proud of you, because you are hungry.”

I like parties, although I’ve never tried pot. It’s because I can see people from different angles. In most cases, classmates who look always serious in class are laughing at the party. When I see those smiles, I feel strong intimacy to them.
It was a Web presentation day in ITP, and on the 1st floor the party for Tisch grads was held. Both were really good. I’m grad to be here.

12/5 Thursday

A Call from a friend of Stievie Wonder
I got a call to my answering machine. The guy was from the Wall Street Journal, David, and a friend of Stievie Wonder. What? In my mind there were many ????????
• Why did a friend of Stievie Wonder have to call me?
• Why is a friend of Stievie Wonder working at the Wall Street Journal?
• Why does a friend of Stievie Wonder know my telephone number?
I set forth three hypothesis before calling back to him.
• Stievie wants to have his own home page on the Internet. But he doesn’t know anybody who can code HTML. He came up with an idea to ask David to find a good designer because David is working at the huge media company so he must know a good designer. David happens to see my “Born To Sing!” site, and he really likes it. David thought I’m working with the gospel theater where all casts and most of the staff are African-American so I must have any good idea to make Stievie’s home page effectively.
• A week ago I argued with Amy on which is more talented, Stievie Wonder or Ray Charles. She claimed definitely Stievie is, but I opposed to her. My point is Ray Charles doesn’t write songs so they can’t be compared with. However, we agreed with each other on the point that Stieve passed his peak as a musician. Stievie happened to hear our argument(probably it was impossible, though) and ask David to investigate our argument deeply.
• I have met a drummer of Stievie’s band at JFK surely. While we were waiting for a cab, he, in front of me, said to me, “Konnichiwa, are you Japanese? my wife is Japanese.” I forgot his name. David has probably something to do with the drummer, but I didn’t give him any information about me…
Then I called David. He was a reporter at the Wall Street Journal without question. I asked him, “are you a friend of Stievie Wonder?” He seemed to be surprised a bit. He said “I wish I did” or something. He isn’t a friend of Stievie Wonder, but Stacy Horn.
They don’t sound similar, though…

12/11 Wednesday

Web class presentation(Mike Cosaboom).

I won. Completely won. The cab driver found guilty in two charges. $75+$25=$100(Plus, he couldn’t work today because of this judgement) But he never apologized to me although the judge gave him a chance to apology. If he had apologized to me, I would have appealed to the judge not to fine him honestly and we could have shaked hands.It’s not the matter of money, it’s the matter of my dignity.

I found through today’s judgement that the judge can’t force him to apology to me as a verdict. Even if he can, he can’t change the driver’s attitude or mind. Vanity covers my dignity.

12/12 Thursday

After the last Dan’s class, Kris unexpectedly gave me a diarybook with a nice blue cover. I was really happy.  She was a first presentation partner at Pat’s class. From the first time I met her, she was kind to me. She corrects my English without hurting me.

I thought the reason she gave it to me was she was really kind. A month ago, I said to her that I liked her notebook. She had remembered it.

But, as a bachelor, I wanted to think the hidden meaning of this present even if she didn’t have it. I know she has a really good boyfriend. I asked Sabine by e-mail to listen to her comment just in case, because she was a witness.

——— Hi, toshio, i guess kristine is a very nice person and what she did reflects that. i would not read anything else into that. you are such a refreshing and wonderful person that her giving you the present is “normal”.
i guess what you call western women is just that we are maybe more open in showing whom we like and whom we don’t. however, liking is not the same than having “feelings” for somebody.
but trust me there is quite a large amount of people who really “like” your honesty and your “japanese” approach to many things.
take the present as a sign of that. i hope i could help you understand “us” better.
———-It makes me happy, but I have to be honest to my mind. I’m a littel bit sad.



A Beautiful Woman With A Guy with A Plastic Bag

At Night, I happened to see Athena walking up on University Place toward me. She is a mysterious beautiful woman. Most ITP students think that there are only two Greek women, Marias, in ITP. But she is a third greek woman. I thought I was lucky because I might be able to ask her out for dinner or something. However, unfortunately, she was with a guy. Because of the night, I couldn’t see him well. Only I could tell was he had a long hair which looked dirty with dirty jeans, and had a plastic bag. I couldn’t see his face but she looked serious. When I was wondering if I should talk to her, she suddenly turned left and tried to enter a cheap Mexican restaurant and he followed her slowly. She took a lead. At that moment, something hit my mind. Which was like, “they are surely lovers. He was very poor. Probably he doesn’t have a job. But she can’t stop loving him.” To be honest, it was shocking that such a beautiful lady was with a guy with a plastic bag. I decided to pretend not to notice her and passed them by. It was like a gender-reverse story of “Pretty Woman”

(Next day during the intermission of the Elton’s class, I said to her, “I saw you last night on the street.” She said she was with Michael, a Digital Network teacher. But I couldn’t bileive what she said and thought that she wanted to hide the fact that she was with the guy with a plastic bag.)
(Again, I asked her. She completely denied my guess and said, “if you really love a poor person, you wouldn’t hide him.” That makes sence. “S’agapo” means “I love you” in Greek.)


An Important (Sad) E-Mail And One Year Anniversary

Just today of the last year, I had my web page up on the web for the first time in my life. It seems it has taken more than a year.

I finally got e-mail from my company, saying they will make me go back to Japan as soon as graduation, which makes me really sad because I want to stay here longer. But the decision is decision. I will follow it.

Dinner: Basta Pasta

My blue feeling made me feel listening to Jazz music. I went to Village Vangard.
Roy Hargrove Big Band. $20 charge, $10 mimnimum drink for two


Pure Heart

I met Mr. Machida Yuji at lunch. He found me at this journal. He talked about his dream. I didn’t ask him but probably he is the same age as mine or one year younger judging from his conversation. He quit his promised company and is trying to pursue his dream, not money. He was pure, which affected me a lot.


Physical Computing — ITP won over MIT

When I was wondering if I should study in the United States or not, I tried to apply MIT. But it required applicants to *speak* more than two programing languages smoothly. Then, I threw away this idea.

I had been thinking and believing that ITP is the best and only one choice before seeing today’s phisical computing show. But when it comes to only technical field, I had to admit that presumably MIT guys were better than ITPers. But I was wrong. Today’s show assured me that ITP is the best in both technical and contents fields. A few days ago, I happened to watch the show focusing on MIT Media lab at Discovery channel. What the faculty was doing was sort of like what ITP students were doing at physical computing class. MIT doesn’t smell human; ITP smells human.

The trend is exactly changing from MIT to ITP.

However, my friend told me they had not been as good as he would have expected. Why did he reach this kind of negative conclusion? I want to take this show entirely positively.

But at the same time I have to admit that he made the point. The sad thing was Der-Hong had not finished his work completely. He is a very kind and good guy so he is always helping somebody without expecting any rewards. In the last a few weeks I saw many times Der-Hong helping his classmates. Perhaps he didn’t have enough time to his own work. It was a shame. He ended up with the sensors just working in response to a shower taker’s feet instead of his entire body’s motion. He is always a perfectionist. He hates compromise with his work. He must be the guy who regreted what he had done the most.


Tisch Salute— Der-Hong’s Award

It was so fun. I again realized that I’ve gotten many great friends here in ITP. Took many pictures and footage. When I got the award and shook hands with the president and the dean, I happened to turn the switch of the video off. Oh, my god! But I will remember eternely in my mind the moment. Memories are often clearer than the fiootage or pictures (I have to say so not to regret my mistake).

Great day. I was really moved when De-Hong got Physical Computing Award unexpectedly from Susanne. I guess it was Susanne and Veronique’s idea. Such a wonderful idea. It’s worth it truly. No one wouldn’t disagree him getting this great respectable award.

I went to Little Italy with Gistavo, but no one was there because the party was supposed to be the day after tommorow.

Then went to the Peagent.
Mike Conor says,
>The Kiss and Tell award goes to Toshi
What does this mean?

Only a dozen of classmates came. Because the rest of them presumably spent the night with their family having come from their home down to Manhattan to attend the Salute.

21 years ago of this day, which was Friday, my two right arm’s bones broke. I remember the sound when it happened.


The Commencement without Tears

It was the first commencement where I had never seen people crying. Smiling, smiling, smiling. How nice it was! We gathered at the Tisch Dance building at 2nd Avenue. Dean told us, “we are a family,” which made me relieved, because leaving New York doesn’t mean getting nothing to do with New York. We marched to Washington Square Park. Then, the weather got nice! We shouted. Bill Cosby. “New York, New York.” Everything was so wonderful.

At night, Matt, Dana, I and Echo Mike had dinner together at a Pan-Asian restaurant at Soho and headed for the bar at Little Italy. We talked a lot. Very cozy and fun party. I like this kind of party very much.

I, we, finally graduated from New York University. Congratulations!!


Can’t Say No

Fiona is a kind and good person. But, how come she took her boyfriend with her? She asked me by phone if she could take him just 30 minutes before when we were supposed to meet. Generally, if you are asked so, you can’t say no. He was a good guy but it was not comfortable since I felt I was always being watched by him to see if I wouldn’t approach her. The restaurnat, Penang, was good and Fiona and he were also good persons. But she should have consulted me much earlier…and, she didn’t have to be so careful.

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

8 thoughts on “Remembering Toshi Otaka

  1. What a beautiful guy. I sure do miss him.

    Favorite line in a field of favorite lines: “He is aggressive, and have something hot in his mind.”

    And I had forgotten the cabbie saga, that he’d actually gotten to court with it…

    Had he gotten back to us, New York City itself would have been improved by some small but sturdy margin.

    Thanks for putting this together, Stacy.

  2. Isn’t it strange that his online diary can still be read? That’s the power of the internet, possibly forever in the ethernet somewhere….

    Makes you wonder why we writers try to publish in print, doesn’t it?

    He seems like a genuine intelligent, gifted person and it’s always sad to learn of one who dies prematurely.

  3. In truth, his diary couldn’t be read until a few days ago. Because of the discussion Stacy mentions, I started looking for it. Found a couple pages here on Echo, and asked NYU’s IT services, and Nancy Lewis, our IT manager at ITP, if if could be found. ITS couldn’t find it in all its backups. Nancy (also a classmate of Toshi’s) managed to find the backup hard drive from the ITP server at the time, pull his old account, and put it up on our current server. So I’d say the fact that it’s up is as much testament to the power Toshi had on us all as it is to the web. Sometimes love makes you do strange things.

    My favorite Toshi story comes from right before he left NYC. He wanted to find a copy of Christopher Cross’ “(The Moon and) New York City” because it made him think of his best memories of NYC. Not a popular album at the time, it wasn’t in any of the CD stores nearby (remember CD stores?). He had a bunch of people on the alum list out searching for it, and I think it was Matt that found it. When he passed away, I got that song stuck in my head for a week. Just like him to take something I’d previously seen as hopelessly schmaltzy and turn it into something precious through its association with him.

    Thanks, Stacy, now you’ve got me crying too. Geez.

  4. Oh Tom, I have to add this to the post. Not everyone reads comments and I don’t want anyone to miss this.

  5. wow — thanks to Stacey and Tom and everyone who helped dig up these really special memories and writings from Toshi. i’m getting all choked up now, too.

  6. Hello-

    I happened to find this blog when I was looking for Toshi’s diary. I live in Tokyo and he was my classmate at Waseda University in Tokyo before he worked for Nikkei. He is absolutely a best friend of mine. As you wrote he had a very special power to attact people and everyone loved him.

    When he was in NYC I had a chance to visit him after my business trip to San Francisco. I went to his apartment and we talked a lot about our dream. Also we hanged out to restaurants and blues club. Those are my precious memories.

    After he came back to Japan we sometimes talked over the phone. I heard he got hospitalized but I did not know he had a cancer.
    One night in December I got a call from him. He was calling from hospital. He said he would be getting well soon so we should go to dinner again. That was the last time I heard his voice.
    I still deeply regret I did not go to see him then.

    After he passed away I went to his home with a few ex-classmates and saw his parents. His room was still there, his photo was still there, everything but him was there.
    We found his diary in his PC that he wrote in the hospital. It was filled up with gratefulness to his parents.

    I cannot believe it has becoming 10 years since we lost him.
    Thank you for writing about him. I am glad I can share his memory.

  7. His genuine gratefulness was part of what was so attractive about him. I’m so sorry you still feel regret about not going to see him. I’d probably feel the same way, but still. You didn’t know. You thought you had a whole lifetime to see him again. So did he. Of all people, I’m sure Toshi knew how you felt. He didn’t need that visit to know.

    Thank you for posting. It makes me happy to know that he was loved so much back home too.

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