Photo: archbould.com

A Design For Life

Kobayashi's & Zedda's Jack Kobayashi on melting buildings, hassle-free commuting, and falling in love
Yukon Questionnaire~Summer 2011 (V5I2)

Name: Jack Kobayashi
City of Residence: Whitehorse 

Occupation: Architect, urban planner, and co-owner of Baked Café

How long have you lived in the Yukon?

“I moved to Whitehorse in February 1991. Some of my staff weren’t even born then.”

What brought you here? “I had just graduated from architecture school. Most of my friends were moving out to Vancouver; that’s where the jobs were at the time. I was looking for something a little off the beaten path. My friend saw a Yukon Government job advertised in the paper and told me to score an interview at the very least. That way, I could see the North for free.”

What keeps you here? “I like the slogan for the Sony PlayStation 3: ‘It Only Does Everything.’ I think that applies to the Yukon.”

Settle the debate for us: what makes someone a “real” Yukoner? “For the people who weren’t born here, you’re either running to something or running away from something. If you’re not in one of those camps, you’re not a real Yukoner.”

What’s the biggest tall tale you’ve told friends or family in the South about life in the North? “I tell people that our architecture practice is so busy because all of our buildings melt every spring.”

How do you get your friends or family in the South to come visit? “I tell them it’s a dry cold.”

Who is your favourite Yukon character of all time? “Possibly legendary ex-Whitehorse Mayor Flo Whyard. She was my first neighbour. I learned a lot about the ‘good ol’ days’ from Flo. She always spoke her mind. That’s not my way, but I grew to appreciate her brutal honesty even when she called me an idiot.”

I wouldn’t change _________ for all the gold in the Klondike. “Federal transfer payments.”

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in the territory? “Fast food: Takhini Arena cheeseburger. Gourmet: The Raven Hotel, Haines Junction. Homemade: West Dawson.”

What’s one thing about the Yukon that more of us should take advantage of? “Walking or cycling to work.”

What’s your favourite piece of little-known Yukon trivia? “The entire Yukon Territory is west of the City of Vancouver: true or false? It’s true.”

What do you wish more Canadians knew about life here?
“That there is more to life than commuting.”

Where is your favourite place in the territory?
“The summit of any mountain, especially one in the White Pass area.”

What’s the best up-close-and-personal encounter you’ve had with the local wildlife?
“I once came face to face with a lynx while riding my bike up Mountain View Drive in Whitehorse. It was on the other side of the guardrail. We both bolted.”

You’re on the phone to a friend from the Outside. No one from the government is listening. Do you say “Yukon” or “The Yukon”?
“The Yukon, of course.”

When the cold and dark gets to you, where do you go to recharge?
“Hawaii in the winter. (It’s the only tropical place in the world where I am routinely mistaken for a local.) The Nordic countries for design inspiration. (The Scandinavians have figured it all out.) Café Gilli in Florence for espresso.”

Dog Mushing or Snowmobiling?
“I don’t do either. Yukoners are often split between motorized and non-motorized. I guess I would lean toward mushing.”

How cold is too cold?
“It’s good to walk around the block regardless of temperature if only for the novelty factor and bragging rights.”

What author, musician, band, or artist from the
territory do you think should be more famous?
“I’m always amazed that such a small population could produce so many people who are of a national calibre. There are too many people to mention, but I like Joseph Tisiga’s work. He pushes boundaries. Edginess is difficult to do in a small town.”

You’ve just won a huge jackpot at Diamond Tooth Gerties Casino, and you have 24 hours to spend it in the Yukon. Where are you headed?
“[To] donate it.”

Finally, what does “The Spell of the Yukon” mean to you personally?
“Falling in love with something you never thought was possible.” Y

Harper Street Publishing
Box 141
Carcross, Yukon Y0B 1B0

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