Discover Nikkei Logo

Bay Area Man Combines Wisdom and Buddhist Thought to Ease Hardships for People


Kenji Oshima coaches people who are suffering with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and he also teaches Buddhism (Dharma). Both methods of helping others involve similar skills.

For example, you don’t dictate to someone how to live their life. You talk about options; you let a person discover their own best path.

“You learn to shut up and not give advice,” Oshima said. “That’s a major skill. You ask questions and get interesting answers. You present options to people and let them evolve.”

ADHD is a neurobehavioral disorder that often starts in childhood. Four of its main symptoms are inattention and lack of focus, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. It can also include irritability, fidgeting, lack of restraint, forgetfulness, short attention span and constant repeating of words or actions.

Oshima said his ADHD clients include high-level business executives, professionals and entrepreneurs.

“It is a disorder which can effect planning and the processing of information,” Oshima said. “You work with people to help them make better decisions.”

Short attention span is fairly common among children and teenagers.

“I interview clients (by phone) each week,” Oshima said. “I find out what their intentions are. It’s like having a coach. I work with technology guys, for example computer programmers between the ages of 30 and 50. We talk about you having a habit you want to break.”

Oshima said personal coaches exist today in many fields including sports and have become more common in recent years.

“In the old days you might ask an uncle for advice,” Oshima said. “Today families are smaller. I’m kind of like a sports coach. I don’t always tell the player what to do. I give information on how to manage ADHD.”

Oshima said one not so harmful example of the disorder would be someone who repeatedly loses their car keys.

“If you keep your keys on a hook, you don’t lose them,” Oshima said. “When you reach the age of 50 or older, your ability to remember can fade. You can develop a bad habit.”

Oshima said a solution to forgetfulness can be as simple as carrying a marker pen and writing down a reminder on your own hand.

“One of my clients has a personal assistant who keeps him on a GPS (Global Positioning System) satellite tracker, to keep him from missing important appointments because he (the client) can become distracted,” Oshima said.

Another client a top industry executive was harried trying to perform too many tasks. Oshima recommended delegating such tasks to assistants.

“I said you should get other people to do these things,” Oshima recalled.

One of Oshima’s clients is a multi-billionaire; another is a celebrity whose name remains a secret.

“If for example you forget to pay your bills on time, you might get a service or a friend to do it for you,” Oshima said.

Oshima is good at what he does because he also suffered from ADHD. He said this influenced him to take up disorder coaching as a profession.

“I was diagnosed later in life with ADHD,” Oshima said. “I was not functioning well. I was coached and it helped me so much I said, why not help others.”

Oshima received his ADHD coach certification 10 years ago.

He is a Sansei (third generation American) and a Hapa (mixed race), half white, half Japanese ancestry. His ancestors and grandparents on his Japanese side came from the Tokyo and Tochigi Prefecture areas of Japan.

His grandmother Ise Maizawa and his grandfather Sanshiro Oshima immigrated to the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century and established a laundry service in the Bay Area.

During World War II the U.S. Government decided to lock up 120,000 mostly Japanese American citizens living along the West Coast for suspected disloyalty. Oshima’s family including his father William Susumu Oshima, a teenager at the time, were imprisoned at the Topaz War Relocation concentration camp in a remote area of Millard County, Utah.

After the war and release from imprisonment William Oshima moved to Ohio. Colleges in that state run by the Methodist Church were allowing Japanese Americans newly released from the camps to enroll as students.

After marrying his wife Helen, William took up the occupation of a social worker.

“I was born in Cleveland,” Kenji Oshima said. “I grew up in Ohio and attended Leslie University (Cambridge, Massachusetts), achieving a degree in liberal studies in 1994.”

He said he had little interest in the Buddhist religion and only went to church once as a youth to sing in a choir. However, he developed an interest in his 20’s and began studying the principles of Buddhism because he could see its benefits personally.

“Buddhism fit in with my own development, personal and self-help,” Oshima said.

Oshima indicated Buddhism, involving a reflective and contemplative style of thinking, helps a person to understand the type of person they are. He agreed a person can also learn to be not so hard on themselves for their own human foibles and shortcomings.

“You learn to observe with Buddhism,” Oshima said. “As a father you might observe your children and learn what their skills are. As a Buddhist you observe thoughts, beliefs and habits.”

Oshima was asked to teach Dharma (Buddhism) at the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland (285 17th St.), and the Alameda Sangha, a meditation and Buddhist teachings center at 2311 Buena Vista Ave. in Alameda.

He teaches Dharma at the centers two or three times a month and meditation weekly with as many as 20 students in a class. Lately because of the COVID-19 virus these have been conducted virtually on computer via Zoom. He receives no salary, just a small donation for the services.

Asked to name one of the most beneficial things a person can do to find greater peace in their life, Oshima responded, “Learn to meditate. It’s like putting a penny in a bucket once each day. At first it doesn’t seem like much at the time, but over 30 years it can say much more.”

Oshima said brain scan tests performed on religious monks showed they had a higher developed sense of compassion than others.

“This is an awareness that should be cultivated in people,” he said.

Oshima said people can still get angry, feel disappointment and failure, but learning Buddhist concepts and practicing meditation can make life easier.

“Happiness can be a fleeting thing,” he said. “But you can learn to cope. You learn to be aware, to be more appreciative. It makes life bearable.”

To learn more about ADHD, go to

To visit Oshima’s ADHD coaching website, go to

To access the East Bay Meditation Center, go to

The website for Alameda Sangha can be reached at


*This article was originally published in the NikkeiWest in 2021.

© 2021 John Sammon / NikkeiWest

Buddhism California coaching (athletics) dharma East Bay East Bay Meditation Center (firm) generations hapa Kenji Oshima Northern California Oakland racially mixed people religions Sansei United States
About the Author

John Sammon is a freelance writer and newspaper reporter, novelist and historical fiction writer, non-fiction book writer, political pundit and column writer, comedy and humor writer, screenplay writer, film narrator and a member of the Screen Actors Guild. He lives with his wife near Pebble Beach.

Updated March 2018

Explore more stories! Learn more about Nikkei around the world by searching our vast archive. Explore the Journal
We’re looking for stories like yours! Submit your article, essay, fiction, or poetry to be included in our archive of global Nikkei stories. Learn More
Discover Nikkei brandmark New Site Design See exciting new changes to Discover Nikkei. Find out what’s new and what’s coming soon! Learn More

Discover Nikkei Updates

Nikkei Names 2: Grace, Graça, Graciela, Megumi?
What’s in a name? Share the story of your name with our community. Submissions now open!
Nikkei Uncovered IV: a poetry reading
Join us virtually and enjoy poetry by Matthew Mejia, Christine Kitano, and Mia Ayumi Malholtra.
We're on Instagram!
Follow us @discovernikkei for new site content, program announcements, and more!