Steve Jobs was the public face of some of the greatest technological innovations of the 21st century. But privately, he was known for his passion for Japanese culture. He was particularly fond of Kyoto and in 25 years he got to know the ancient Japanese capital well.
Regarding Kyoto, Oshima Hiroshi was Steve Jobs’ man. Oshima worked as a driver and tour guide for Jobs on four trips, the last in 2010, just a year before the death of the Apple founder. Jobs came up with a vague idea of what he wanted to see but left the details to Oshima.
Over the years, the two grew closer, and Jobs gave Oshima his home address and phone number, urging him to call if he ever had the chance to make it to the United States. Oshima said he would even jokingly ask Jobs to name one of Apple’s products “Hiro”.
Oshima says one of Jobs’ favorite destinations was Ryoanji, a 500-year-old Zen temple known for its rock garden. Oshima took Jobs there three times.
“On our first visit, I told him about the temple’s unique visual trick,” says Oshima. “The garden has fifteen stones but you cannot see them all at once from one point of view.”
Oshima says Jobs immediately checked to see if this was true. He was pacing, looking for the perfect spot to view the garden, but couldn’t find it.
“Then I explained the meaning of the number: 15 means completion. In the past, it was recognized that men reach adulthood by the age of 15. can not find the 15 rocks is that we are still in a work in progress. “
Oshima says Jobs seemed to accept it and nodded, keeping his eyes on the garden. Years later, he took his children to the temple and told them what Oshima had explained to him.
Jobs spoke of the influence of Zen Buddhism on his life in his authoritative biography: “I have always found Buddhism, Japanese Zen Buddhism in particular, to be aesthetically sublime. The most sublime thing I have ever seen are the gardens around Kyoto. I am deeply moved by what this culture has produced, and it comes directly from Zen Buddhism. “
“I want a garden like this.”
In July 2010, Oshima was driving Jobs to an upscale neighborhood near the Nanzenji Temple. One residence in particular caught Jobs’ attention. It was Villa Nomura, completed in 1928 by Nomura Tokushichi, the founder of Nomura Securities. The residence is known for its pristine garden and has been designated as an Important National Cultural Property. But it is rarely open to the public.
“I told him it would be impossible to get in but he said he might have a way,” Oshima says. “He called his secretary in the United States and ten minutes later I got a call from Nomura headquarters saying we had a reservation for a personal visit the next day.”
When they returned, an interpreter was waiting for Jobs. Oshima was waiting outside in the car.
“When he came back an hour later, he said, ‘I wish I had a garden like this.'”
In terms of Japanese cuisine, Oshima says Jobs always loved soba, and his favorite restaurant was Misoka-an Kawamichiya, a store near the Tawaraya ryokan, where he always stayed when he visited.
“I once tried to take him to another place, but he didn’t finish the meal,” Oshima says. “He asked me to take him to his usual place to eat again.
Jobs also loved sushi, and on the last day of his last trip to Kyoto, he took his family to lunch at the famous Sushiiwa restaurant. As his wife and daughter ordered the course menu, Jobs asked the owner for recommendations.
“He asked me for seasonal sushi,” recalls Ohnishi Toshiya, owner of Sushiiwa.
Ohnishi started Jobs with plaice sushi, then squid and shrimp. When he served the toro, the fatty part of the tuna, Jobs suddenly fell silent. Ohnishi asked if something was wrong.
“He asked me what I was going to serve next and I told him I hadn’t decided. He told me to keep serving the toro until he asked me to stop. “
The toro was from the city of Oma in Aomori prefecture. The region’s tuna is appreciated for its fatty meat. Ohnishi says he served six coins in a row.
“He told me he’s never had such delicious sushi,” says Ohnishi.
At the end of the meal, Ohnishi asked for Jobs’ autograph for his daughter. The Apple founder rarely accepted such requests but, perhaps in a good meal mood, said he would be happy to oblige. Ohnishi told him to come back soon, but Jobs said it would be difficult.
“He told me he was suffering from a serious illness and that this might be his last trip to Kyoto. It was shocking to hear. He also asked me to deliver sushi to his home in the United States. if he couldn’t come back to my place. restaurant. “
“All the good things”
Jobs’ autograph now adorns Sushiiwa’s wall. It is accompanied by a message: “All good things”, a shortened version of the saying “All good things must come to an end”.
“Maybe he knew when his life would end, since he passed away a year later,” Ohnishi said. “Maybe that’s why he chose not to write the whole sentence, and only the first three words.”
Six years after Jobs visited, a guest was particularly shocked to see the autograph at Sushiiwa. John Sculley joined Apple as CEO in 1983, persuaded to quit his job at PepsiCo by Jobs himself. But the two had their differences, which led to Jobs’ infamous departure from Apple two years later.
In 2016, he stopped in Sushiiwa for a meal. Ohnishi told him about his former partner’s visit and, despite the difficult end of their business relationship, Sculley broke down in tears.
“He told me that since they had retired from the business front, they could have enjoyed sushi at Steve’s favorite restaurant and had a good time together,” Ohnishi explains. “But he’s passed away and now he’s in Heaven.”
Steve Jobs’ Secret Passion
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