Passion for Detail

Masamichi Nakatsuka has a painting, a watercolour on paper called “Passion”, that he completed in one sitting. The painting is of a skull with paint dripping down its side. Nakatsuka, who goes by Michi, says he couldn’t stop working until it was finished.

It took five to six hours.

Michi ended up in Whitehorse because it is the easiest way for him to immigrate to Canada. He’s originally from Japan, but after visiting Toronto on a one-year Visa, he decided he’d rather live in Canada than Japan.

“Japan is too strict. If I want a job there, I can’t have hair like this, or I can’t have a tattoo.” 

Michi’s two-tone mohawk is bleached and black. He wears his jeans tight, and a black leather jacket. His flesh is pierced, and he eagerly pulls up pant legs and his shirt to show off tattoos.

He loves Toronto because you can do whatever you want, nobody bothers you. People help each other out in Toronto

“They don’t do that in Japan.”

The only thing he doesn’t like about Toronto is the “stupid subway system. The trains don’t always stop when they’re supposed to. And the bus drivers make you wait while they go into Tim Hortons. That doesn’t happen in Japan.”

Despite the laissez-faire nature of Canadian transit systems, Michi decided to move here. An immigration officer advised him to apply for the nomination program. The immigration officer told him to go to the Yukon because “they need people there”.

Michi had to go back to Japan, where he had to work very hard, “like, crazy hard, I’ve never done that — 12 hours a day.”

Michi worked in a factory, saved money, and learned to speak English.

He moved to the Yukon five years ago and did the culinary arts program at the Yukon College.

“I didn’t care about food before I came here.”

But he fell in love with cooking while in the program. He loved to see people enjoying his cooking, and he said Ryan Cumming, his instructor, is the “best teacher”.

Michi got a job at the Klondike Rib and Salmon, then at the High Country Inn. He went to Dawson, where he worked at the Downtown Hotel. In Dawson there was only one other guy who tattooed.

“We became friends. We got alot of business.”

Michi said Dawsonites loved getting ink. He started practising with colour, contrasting black and grey skulls with splashes of red roses.

He has a few clients in Whitehorse — he works privately — but he’d love to open his own shop one day.

These days, Michi works in the kitchen at the Gold Rush Inn. At his art opening last week he served Japanese-style tenderloin wrapped in arugula and wasabi crab shell salad on cucumber cups. The food went fast.

There were other artists at his opening who told Michi he works really quickly. He painted “Passion” in one sitting, and that’s more common than not — it’s hard for him to stop once he starts.

Now he’s trying to make his newest work “super-realist”. He and artist Colin Alexander will have a show in December, Michi hopes to have around five pieces ready.

Michi hated Whitehorse when he first moved here. He loves music, and this place seemed too small. But now he has lots of friends, and he’s started to love nature. Still, when he finally gets his immigration sorted out he doesn’t know what he’ll do. He really wants to go back to Toronto, or to Europe. He’d love to get a tattoo in Germany.

Michi’s current art display will be up in Triple J’s until mid-December.

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