Yoshihiro and Tamah Nakamura are an adventure story spanning oceans, cultures, and languages. Theirs is also the tale of two people discovering themselves over a lifetime, through their love, and against multicultural backdrops.
Yoshihiro spent a year far from his university in Fukuoka, volunteering in the orphanage in Pennsylvania where Tamah’s mother worked. Tamah got to know him there, and at her home when her mother often had the orphanage’s international volunteers as guests.
It was the beginning of a friendship leading to 38 years of marriage, working and studying in Fukuoka, Kansas, Singapore, and Tokyo. In each place, Tamah and Yoshihiro explored and embraced many cultures.
The value of multicultural education
In “Gift” a book she wrote as tribute to her husband, Tamah shared, “Our accommodations at the University of Kansas were the married-student apartments, where many international families also lived. In the evenings, the aroma from cooking wafted deliciously across the yards where children played together, mixing English with their own languages. Our international life continued even in the USA.”
Yoshihiro was a professor of education at colleges in Japan. In his final textbook, he wrote,
“We cannot learn multicultural communication from a textbook or teacher; the answers are not set or decided by any one society or culture. We learn it from ourselves and from our experiences. We must take the opportunity to have many diverse experiences and interactions with many kinds of people.”
The gift continues
After Yoshihiro’s death in 2012, Tamah moved to Hawai‘i, where the couple had spent a summer with the East-West Center in the mid-Eighties. Now she wants to encourage students to experience the diverse cultures she and her husband grew to love. Working with First Hawaiian Bank’s Philanthropic Services and the University of Hawai‘i Foundation, she established two scholarship funds.
The Tamah and Yoshihiro Nakamura HELP scholarship will support students from Japan who participate in the Hawai‘i English Language Program at UH Mānoa. The Tamah and Yoshihiro Nakamura Study Abroad Scholarship will assist UH Mānoa students from Hawai‘i who participate in the study abroad program in Japan.
“Yoshihiro and I learned the joy of doing things differently,” says Tamah. “Through our multicultural interactions and experiences, we learned the importance of mentoring, creating relationships, respecting differences, acceptance, diversity, and love.”
L-R Joel Weaver, Director, HELP (University of Hawaiʻi English Language Program); Tamah Nakamura and Sarita Rai, Director, UH Mānoa Study Abroad Center.