Japanese student comes 'home' to Boise State

Accountant Shuhei Nakagawa follows his parents' educational path

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comJuly 14, 2014 

It's been more than 30 years since Takami Nakagawa and Rie Yoshida studied at Boise State University.

Takami was a 21-year-old from Tokyo. He studied English and business at schools in California for two years before deciding to get his bachelor's degree at Boise State.

"I had searched many places in many states to look for 'my place,' " he recalled this week. He visited Boise and the campus, and he knew he'd found it.

"Nice people, economically stable, (good) weather, peaceful, not too complicated," he said.

Rie was a 25-year-old from Osaka, Japan. She had earned an associate degree from Osaka Christian College, and a mentor at the YMCA where she worked recommended she finish her studies at Boise State. She had never been to the U.S.

"Boise is a very safe and beautiful place to stay and study," she said.

Takami and Rie arrived in Boise in 1979. They both lived in Morrison Hall, then a co-ed dorm with one wing for women and one for men. The two accounting majors hit it off immediately. They graduated in 1981.

They have fond memories of Boise. They never floated the river, but they often went fishing.

"I even made sushi with trout," Rie said.

They married in 1982 and were living in Osaka when their first son - Shuhei (pronounced Shoo-hay) - was born.

The Nakagawa's family story will come full circle next May, when Shuhei expects to graduate with an accounting degree from Boise State. His parents look forward to returning to Boise for his graduation.

"I knew Boise would take care of my son well. I knew he would love Boise," Takami Nakagawa told the Statesman via an email from Tokyo.


The number of international students at Boise State has grown from 58 in 1980 to 721 in 2013, but they make up just over 3 percent of the student body.

In the 2000s, the biggest groups of students came from Canada, China, India and Japan (about 15 to 25 from each), according to Christy Babcock, associate director of International Student Services at Boise State.

In the past few years, Saudi and Kuwaiti student numbers have shot up due to the government scholarships those countries provide their students, Babcock said.

About 300 Saudis and 175 Kuwaitis attend BSU. There's been an increase in students from Korea and Nepal (about 25 from each), too.

The university may feel foreign to many of these students - but it's familiar to "Shu" Nakagawa, who heard a lot about it growing up.

"I feel like it's a second hometown," he said. "It's a very beautiful place."

He loves the wide-open feel of the Treasure Valley, which has a fraction of the population of metropolitan Tokyo (roughly 37 million).

"We can't barbecue (at home), only along the river," he said. "There's no space."

The 29-year-old studied the martial art of kendo from the age of 5 to 16, and was pleasantly surprised to discover the BSU Kendo Club. He participates in the club and is impressed with its teacher, Robert Stroud.


Nakagawa holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Meiji University in Tokyo. He was working at a Japanese accounting firm when he decided to continue his international accounting studies at Boise State.

"I wanted to get more knowledge and experience," he said. "In accounting, we have to study about ethics. Those ethics are different in every country."

His parents have had successful accounting careers.

His dad, who went on to get a master's in accounting at Japan's Chuo University, is head of compliance for eBay/PayPal Japan.

His mom earned a master's in law from Tokyo University. She now runs her own consulting firm, providing accounting and other English-language businesses services.

Shuhei's brother, Jun pei, 25, is the black sheep of the family - he studied at an art school and is training to be a leather shoemaker.

Shuhei stays busy with his studies and kendo. He jogs and enjoys drinking coffee at Downtown shops.

"I drink a lot of coffee," he said. "I love Moxie Java and Starbucks."

He Skypes weekly with his family, including his 88-year-old grandmother and 13-year-old dog, Tatsuma.

He shows off a photo of the mini dachshund on his iPhone, held safely in a Bronco-themed phone case.

"My blood is orange and blue," he said.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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