The Wisdom of Ishi…

In 2013, M and I were living in Saigon when we were introduced to Ishi, a visiting writer from Kanagawa, Japan. Our friend, Akiko Yabuki, found Ishi lounging on a beach four years earlier. Since then, the two of them and Aki’s husband George have traveled extensively. Today the three of them and their 5 year-old daughter, Emi, live near the center of the hipster universe in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with their Labrador retriever, Pono.

In 2014 we were thrilled to have Aki, George, and Ishi visit us in Seattle. We cooked dinner, all in agreement that sharing food with friends (or enemies) is the way to the heart and an avenue toward peace. I made pasta, which Ishi found restful… even soporific.

Ishi means “rock” and “expression of desire” in Japanese, and though he tops out at just 1.77 inches tall he is a powerful presence and messenger for good.

His is an extraordinary story. From the beach in Kanagawa, Japan to Park Slope, Ishi has traveled thousands of miles and made thousands of friends. He has his own Facebook page with nearly 7000 followers, and a book about his life, Ishi: Simple Tips from a Solid Friend has sold more than 61,000 copies in 19 countries. Check it out; you can be Ishi’s friend as well.

His backstory is equally eclectic. Akiko was born in Japan but moved to New York City when she was 11. George is a second-generation Vietnamese American from Seattle. M and I met the two of them in Saigon where George was the managing director of an advertising agency. Aki  had agreed to leave her job as a content developer at Sesame Street in New York City to accompany him to Vietnam and a new adventure.

There, Aki, feeling lonely and out of place, traded on her Sesame Street experience and found work developing content, script writing, and consulting on all aspects of production for a preschool television program (52 episodes), called “Let’s play with Color” in HCMC, Vietnam.

Ishi is no beach bum slouch. He has a message, a simple message. Aki explains it “When I was having a series of bad days, I met Ishi on the beach. Ishi cheered me on, reminding me that happiness was quite simple. I just needed to choose happiness.” I might put his message differently. I’d say it’s “Get over yourself. Share your smile and see how it affects those you meet and much better your day can be.” Ishi says it better. His smile is infectious and his wisdom profound.

I’m a big fan of naptime and so is Ishi. After the pasta course at our house he disappeared and this is where we found him. He likes Persians. In fact, he likes all things beautiful and everyone he encounters – people, dogs, cats, and the fish who swam above him in his earlier life.

Theirs was a pre-Covid weekend trip, but we hope Ishi and the gang will come back soon. They sent us a nice thank you note. Good manners. Ishi thinks good manners are always in order.

Back home he likes to hang out in Prospect Park. That’s Aki’s dog Pono swimming in to see his friend. Pono missed him a lot when he was away.

Ishi’s instructions, just behind the title page of the book are:

  1. Enjoy the book thoroughly yourself.
  2. Find someone who you want to share this book with.
  3. Pass it on and make someone smile

M and I have passed many on to friends of all ages.

If you’d like to order a copy to pass on, or for you to keep, please email me at

I don’t know about you, but between Covid-19 variants, Stop the Steal, the Texas anti-abortion law, Russian troops gathering on the Ukraine border, the Build Back Better/Joe Manchin fiasco, Jeffrey and Ghislaine, insurrection deniers, and the debt ceiling, I find that hanging out with Ishi brings with it a breath of fresh air and refreshing change in attitude.

Addendum:  Akiko reports that the ISHI book is currently sold out but the publisher says they should be available soon… Until then, she made this pouch to remind someone to use these items as a reminder..

Pillow – so you remember to get good rest
Glasses – to remind you to look for the good
Shell – Nature has magic, so go outside every day! 
Glass bottle – to remind you to collect memories, not things
Balloon – so you can let go of what you can’t control 
Letter G – to remind you to have gratitude for what you have
Candle – to celebrate every small victories 
Staw – to help you take deeeeeep breaths 
A list – so you remember to write down 3 things that made you smile today
Cotton Candy – so you remember to have something yummy every day! 
Rock – so you know you ROCK! 


  1. Once again Jack thanks for the story. Reading about your travels and the impressions from those journeys is in itself uplifting for me. The things you listed that one could worry about is enough for a good migraine. Fortunately your writing puts those things in the background. Hopefully there is a chance of some resolution to some of our domestic issues with some of those “gentlemen” spending some time under the supervision of our penal system.

    Take care,

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