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Nikkei Chronicles #2 — Nikkei+ ~ Stories of Mixed Language, Traditions, Generations & Race ~

Living in the Overlap

Two years ago, I met a Mexican American man and this meeting would change my life forever. We were from two different worlds, yet we still found the intersection where those two worlds overlapped, a special place created just for us. And in that place, we were not labels. He was not a Mexican American and I was not a Japanese American. We were greater than that. We were simply limitless potential.

One week ago, I met a Korean American man, and I feel my life changing yet again. He has his own world of experience, both exhilarating and painful, and I have mine, both contemplative and emotional. And again, I note our differences and embrace the overlap.

I see these overlaps as beautiful, spaces of abundant understanding and love. It is there where time seems to stand still and where we are the most aware that we are not alone in this world. So what does this have to do with being Nikkei? I believe the answer is everything and nothing.

As an American born Nikkei growing up in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County, I was surrounded by diversity. The population was predominantly Asian and Latino, and although being Nikkei was not as common as being Chinese American or Vietnamese American, there was an overlap between these cultures that was understood to be our shared “Asian-ness”. And it was a safe space to bond and exist as a piece of a bigger whole.

So to me, being Nikkei IS that overlap. It is the beautiful space where we understand our culture without the need for explanation. It is packing musubi for a long road trip. It is participating in odori dancing at the obon festival. It is eating bento at a picnic. And it is always being humble and reciprocating a kind gesture. And where there is understanding, you will often find love. In times of hardship and injustice, it is this love that brings us to action. It moves us and reminds us that we are connected.

But often times, what we see as overlap extends to far greater places than we can imagine. Those that we believe may not understand our struggles may understand in a way much deeper than ever anticipated. It is the overlap that existed during World War II, when the United States interned all Nikkei, regardless of American citizenship, as well as Japanese nationals residing in the U.S. It is the Mexican American man who willingly accompanied the internees to show support and solidarity. It is the friends who saved the houses for the internees when they returned. And to be Nikkei and American I have learned to live in the overlap within and beyond my culture, gender, age, education, and class.

So yes, while my overlap may have begun with being Nikkei, I have found abundant love and beauty through the balance of embracing it and allowing it to extend beyond.

*For more information (including a link to the Kickstarter for Lora Nakamura’s book, Bonsai Babes ending October 18, 2013, visit the The Bonsai Babes page. The book tells the tale of a Mexican American girl and a Japanese American girl who come to co-exist on a Los Angeles playground.

See the press release here >>


© 2013 Lora Nakamura

15 Stars

Nima-kai Favorites

Each article submitted to this series was eligible for selection as favorites of our readers. Thank you to everyone who voted!

Bonsai Babes Chronicles identity Lora Nakamura multicultural nikkei nikkei-plus race

About this series

Being Nikkei is inherently a state of mixed traditions and cultures. For many Nikkei communities and families around the world, it is common to use both chopsticks and forks; mix Japanese words with Spanish; or celebrate the New Year’s Eve countdown with champagne and Oshogatsu with ozoni and other Japanese traditions.

This series introduces stories explore how Nikkei around the world perceive and experience being multiracial, multinational, multilingual, and multigenerational.

Each piece submitted to the Nikkei+ anthology was eligible for selection as our readers’ favorites. 

Here are their favorite stories in each language.

To learn more about this writing project >>

Check out these other Nikkei Chronicles series:

#1: ITADAKIMASU! A Taste of Nikkei Culture
#3: Nikkei Names: Taro, John, Juan, João?
#4: Nikkei Family: Memories, Traditions, and Values 
#5: Nikkei-go: The Language of Family, Community, and Culture 
#6: Itadakimasu 2!: Another Taste of Nikkei Culture
#7: Nikkei Roots: Digging into Our Cultural Heritage