Oral history interview with Akira Tsuchiya, 2015


Tsuchiya, Akira, 1950- (Interviewee)
Greenfield, Susan C (Interviewer)
Oral history interview with Akira Tsuchiya, 2015
Akira Tsuchiya begins the interview with a family history and a portrait of life in post-War Japan. He recounts his parents work as a nurse and railway worker, their time in Manchuria until the end of World War II, and the household dynamic of his youth. He describes interests and cultural touchstones such as history, baseball, film, and music. He also discusses his education and the period's compe titive culture. He gives a detailed description of his early years with the Taiyo Fishery Company: the interview process, company culture, dating at the company, company housing, and his placement in New York City. He discusses his earliest years in New York City including impressions of the city in the 1970s, living in Bronxville and Midtown, and a broken engagement from a sweetheart in Japan. He describes aspects of his work with Taiyo including his work in financial services, his work in trading bluefin tuna in New England and Spain, and work travel in Latin America. He discusses the start of his family in the 1980s: meeting and marrying an American woman, the birth of his son, and the challenges of different cultural expectations around work life. He also shares his perceptions of the unhoused during this period. He discusses being posted to Madrid, the family's increasingly lavish lifestyle, the birth of his daughter in 1990, and departing Taiyo for the Sony Corporation. He describes his path to homelessness: overspending while maintaining households in two cities, lawsuits over two New York residences, and his estrangement from family. Tsuchiya discusses his life while unhoused. He avoided shelters and soup kitchens, spent days at the library or sleeping outside, worked odd jobs, and washed at a hotel. The interview closes with Tsuchiya's road to becoming housed. He describes seeking help at All Angels' Church, volunteering at the shelter, the Pathways program, finding a mentor, the Panim el Panim program, and working through the shame of homelessness. He speaks at length about faith, including his conversion to Christianity and baptism. He discusses becoming a mentor, attempts to reconnect with family, and starting a new relationship
Collection Name
Homelessness and Healing oral history collection
Homeless persons--New York (State); Shelters for the homeless--New York (State); Homelessness; Church work with the homeless; Corporate culture--Japan; Spiritual formation; Japan Social conditions 1945-; Tsuchiya, Akira, 1950-; Taiyō Gyogyō Kabushiki Kaisha
oral histories
Physical Description
233 pages
Note (Biographical)
Akira Tsuchiya was born in Saku City, Japan in 1950. Following college, he joined the Taiyo Fishery Company. He earned a placement in their New York City Office when he was twenty-six years old. He worked in financial services and later in fish produc ts, managing multi-million dollar credit lines. He married an American woman in 1981 and had two children, while the company moved him to appointments in Tokyo in 1982, Madrid in 1986, and back to Tokyo in 1993. Tsuchiya's generous income afforded his family a life of luxury: private school, expensive jewelry, and fancy cars. The family returned to New York City when Tsuchiya was reposted to Japan. In 1994, Tsuchiya left Taiyo for a financial subsidiary of the Sony Corporation, where he worked until 1998. Even so, Tsuchiya could not support the family's expensive lifestyle in two cities. He ultimately succumbed to debt and lawsuits. By the early 2000s he was estranged from his family and living on the street. Due to pride, he avoided soup kitchens and shelters, surviving on the few dollars he earned cleaning an Ivy League Club at night or helping a sanitation worker. After he was caught stealing clothes from Macy's in 2006, he decided to seek help. He joined the Pathways Program at All Angels' Church on the Upper West Side. While receiving services, he also began volunteering, becoming the in-house chef for the church. In 2009, he graduated from the Panim el Panim program of the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing, and he served as a mentor in this program from 2010-2014
Interviewed by Susan Greenfield on January 14 and January 16, 2015
Note (Provenance)
Susan Celia Greenfield, Gift, 2021
Library Location
Columbia Center for Oral History, Columbia University
Browse Location’s Digital Content
Catalog Record
Also In
Oral History Archives at Columbia
Persistent URL
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