If there is one thing I have learned in doing these profiles, it’s that Portlanders are creative, busy, on-the-go people. The day I interview someone that says, “I like to sit at home and watch television all day,” I’ll have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not having a nightmare.
Mo Nishiyama is no exception to this rule. It seems so obvious when he remarks how “Portland makes it easy and encourages people to try new things.”
Trying new things – whether voluntary or not – seems to be something Nishiyama has dealt with for most of his life. Originally born in Japan, his family moved to a small town in Alaska when he was eight. As you can likely imagine, he wasn’t entirely enthused.
“Spending thirteen years in Alaska in a very cold town with a very conservative cultural atmosphere was just not cutting it for me,” he flatly admits.
After turning 21, Nishiyama spread his wings, fled the cold coup and migrated south for the… well, forever. He wound up landing in Eugene, where he majored in film with a minor in music.
As you can probably imagine, “I don’t work in film or music,” he deadpans.
“I’m a tech writer at OHSU in the IT department.”
If there’s a story that could be told a million times, it’s the one of the film and music student who wound up in an IT department.
Fortunately, he writes, which is a creative endeavor, even if it is, well, technical writing. Nishiyama assures us the creative fire that stoked a film and music education gets its fuel through his current work.
“I take pride in translating technical language into things that people could use and writing in a way that makes them feel better about what they do,” he says.
When he’s not translating gobbledygook into layman’s terms with a smile on his face, Nishiyama can be found doing… well, just about everything.
“I enjoy things that most Portlanders do,” he begins. “Which is to say I like to go out and explore new restaurants and bars, go cycling, go running, enjoy the great outdoors and the quirky fun things people do here in Portland.”
What kind of quirky fun things might he be referring to?
“I really enjoy giving presentations,” he says with a wry grin in his voice.
Presentations. Yeah, that’s kind of quirky. What sort of presentations?
“I like giving short stories; presentation events where I tell a story about my life experiences, such as overcoming my fear of public speaking.”
Wait, a fear of public speaking, but he likes to give presentations.
“Ironic, I’ve given presentations to rooms of hundreds of people considering my least favorite class in high school was public speaking,” he says with a laugh.
As my bewilderment fills a void of silence, he continues. “It’s all about trying new things,” he whimsically reminds me.
And we come full circle. It’s amazing that after twenty-one years in Portland, Nishiyama still revels in trying new things. Perhaps that is one of the greatest things about Portland and her residents.
“Portland is a great place to practice gratitude and participate in a creative community every day. It gives me a chance to give people a better version of myself every day,” he concludes.
There are few better ways one can express the love for their city than by pointing to it as the reason they are a better person and I think the same can be said in the opposite direction. Portland is a better city because of PDX People like Nishiyama.
William Bessette – PDX People Contributor
William Bessette is a journalist and freelance writer who has been covering politics, entertainment, culture and travel for over thirteen years. When he’s not profiling Portland-area restaurants and residents, you can find him reporting on national and international travel and eco-tourism through his travel brand, Floppy Hat Adventures.