Don’t Fear the Reaper: Yuusuke Wada ’82
Yuusuke Wada ’82 wasn’t planning to take over the family business in Japan, but as he explains in his recently published memoir, The Man Who’s Called the Reaper, his life has been full of unexpected twists and turns.
While Yuusuke Wada’s classmates might have assumed that his arrival at Fay marked his first adventure abroad, he was actually sent to boarding school in England at age eight. Believing predictions that Japan was going to be devastated by a major earthquake, Yuusuke’s mother sent her three children away to school. Just two years later, Yuusuke arrived at Fay in the middle of the 1976-1977 school year. “I made friendships for a lifetime at Fay,” says Yuusuke, who looks back with gratitude on students like Andy Locsin ’77 and families like the Curleys (Maureen ’84, Daniel ’86, and Bill ’77) who looked after him when he was so far from home. In his new book, Yuusuke notes that he developed a kind of ESP while at Fay that allowed him to predict middle-of-the-night fire drills with an accuracy that unnerved his fellow students. Later, in high school in Yokohama, Yuusuke’s ability to predict what would appear on exams earned him the nickname “Shinigami,” meaning the angel of death, or the reaper.
After finishing up at Boston University, Yuusuke returned to Japan to work as an engineering designer of laser printers and copiers for Minolta. Growing up, Yuusuke had always helped out in his family’s funeral home business, but in 1997 he was unexpectedly called back to join the family business as an undertaker, cleaning up bodies and preparing them for cremation. “I was living with two lives, one high tech, and one totally cultural,” he recalls. His book explores the conflict between those two worlds and how they eventually merged when Yuusuke started his own company, Y.E.Y., a portrait creation system for the funeral industry.
Two years ago, Yuusuke was approached by a Japanese publishing house to write an autobiography. Although the writing and editing were delayed by the pandemic, his book was published this past April, and in September it was published in English, translated by Yuusuke himself. Recently, Yuusuke gave a book talk at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan.
Yuusuke has trademarked the phrase “Shinikata Kaikaku” in Japan. It means reform of death, and that is what Yuusuke hopes to do. He has two podcasts available through Apple Podcasts on the funeral industry and technology. “The theme of my book is that everyone should have a happy and fulfilling life,” he says. “I wish everyone to live happily and die happily.”
Alumni who would like a complimentary copy of Yuusuke’s book can reach out to him through the Fay School Alumni Facebook page, a group that Yuusuke started back in 2010.