Editors Online Blog

Editor’s Blog: On The Passing Of An Old Friend

Shinya Akaike, a close friend during a politically intense period in the late 1970s and whose friendship was moderately restored through social media in recent years, died at age 72 in Detroit, Michigan.

Born in Kobe, Japan, on August 27, 1950, Akaike came to America when he was seven and his sister Janet was nine. His father was born in San Francisco before moving back to Japan, so he was a U.S. citizen. But his children, Shinya and Miyoko, at the urging of a U.S. immigration official, changed their names to Jesse and Janet.

In high school in the Bay Area, Shinya wrote poetry, and had a job after school at the Suehiro restaurant in San Francisco. He and his first wife eloped in 1970. She got a job to support him and he wrote poetry. They lived with his parents, who both worked at the Suehiro restaurant. He and his wife both got involved with leftist politics by 1974, but they separated and later both eschewed any formal political involvements.

Shinya, aka Jesse, got a restaurant job and wound up as a manager. He was married another two times, and had three children. Years later, he was working in Berkeley as a caretaker for a Mr. Massey, a poet to whom he was devoted. When Mr. Massey died, Shinya was given his house for a time and later moved to Detroit.

His son, Ryan Akaike, was from his second marriage, and two daughters, Amina Remy and Michelle Remy, from his third.

Shinya was a passionate soul who took life, his life and those of others, seriously, when this writer knew him. He was a self-taught humanist and intellectual with a devastating sense of humor and whose slight speech impediment only added to his personal charm and challenge to anyone to play closer attention to what he was saying, which was always worth it.

When we first shared an apartment with a third person upon moving to Los Angeles in 1977, on the first weekend Shinya went his way, and I went mine, but we both came back miserable. So, after that we spent virtually all our free time together for about a year and a half and cultivated one of the few truly special relationships I have had in my life, although relatively brief.

On Sunday afternoons we would buy pulp copies of the Shakespeare play that was being performed that weekend at the Globe Theater replica in Hollywood and spend the afternoon on the beach in Malibu each reading our own copy, and then engage in intense conversations about the play while dining at what was then called the Seaside Shanty, before taking in the play.