U student dies on a Spring Break road trip

Yasuo Iwasaki loved America so much, he wanted to bring it back to his native country of Japan someday.

Iwasaki, 23, died March 20 when a car he was traveling in rolled over on an Arizona highway.

He was on his way back from the Grand Canyon with three people at the time of the accident.

Attending the U as part of a one-year exchange program with Shinshu University in Nagano, Iwasaki loved exploring Utah’s nooks and crannies as much as he loved studying, Sage Point resident adviser Heidi Hackney said.

“He was very well-loved on and off the [dorm] floor. Whenever I saw him, he was always happy,” she said.

Iwasaki was planning to obtain an ESL degree and teach English to students in Japan, International Center Director Bill Barnhart said.

Iwasaki’s study-abroad adviser Jesse Pugh described him as an enthusiastic learner excited about extending his stay at the U through the summer months.

“He was working on extending his visa so he could attend the U for another semester. He was always extremely respectful, polite and courteous, which is always greatly appreciated,” he said.

“He was one of those kids who loved learning so much. He was an amazing student,” said Zuzana Sarikova, his ESL teacher.

In addition to learning in the U’s classrooms, Iwasaki was an avid hiker and biker along Utah’s trails and up its mountains, Sarikova said.

“He was kind of all over the place. He was always planning something,” she said.

Yasuo was also a master at judo, holding a black belt in the martial arts form and competing across Utah and into Oregon, said friend Makoto Sato. “When he wanted to try something, he just went out and did it. I think that’s part of his mystery,” Sato said.

One of those things was a solo bicycle trip from his dorm on the U to the Great Salt Lake, a trek of roughly 20 miles. Iwasaki is survived by his parents.

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