Raymond Nakamura

Raymond Nakamura lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. When he is not personal assistant to his daughter, he writes Vogon poetry, draws cartoons rejected by the New Yorker and gives tours of Powell Street, the Japanese community where his mother grew up before World War II. He has a poem about being an ice hockey goalie in a children’s sport poetry anthology called And the Crowd Goes Wild. www.raymondsbrain.com.

Updated October 2012 

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Nikkei Chronicles #7 — Nikkei Roots: Digging into Our Cultural Heritage

My Bachan

We called my Dad’s mom, Bachan. When we visited, she’d offer me a cherry-flavoured cough candy, and I would nod and say, arigato. Every Easter, she sent me and my brothers a chocolate bunny each. She didn’t speak much English and I didn’t speak much Japanese. So I knew her only a little. She was 4’7”, vegetarian, and raised eight kids. She lived 91 years smoking roll-your-own cigarettes. I’ve since realized her life reflects many of the most significant events in Japanese Canadian history.

She was born Taki Kinoshita on February 8, 1889 to ...

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A Tale of Two Baa-chans

For better or worse, marriage can change your life. The arranged marriages of my Issei baa-chans (first arrived grandmothers) completely transformed theirs. Even though my grandmothers did not know each other, they shared experiences in common. Both were eldest daughters, born during the Meiji era of Japan, and immigrated to Canada as teenagers to marry older men they had never met.

Both of my baa-chans discovered life in Canada was not what they expected.

My father’s mother, my Nakamura baa-chan, was born Taki Kinoshita in 1889, the year a new constitution for the Empire of Japan was established under ...

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Nikkei Chronicles #4 — Nikkei Family: Memories, Traditions, and Values

George Nakamura turns 88

My dad turned 88 this year, so we had a big party for him. Turning 88 is perhaps not so rare as it once was, but it is still a pretty big deal, especially in Japanese culture, where it is called “beiju,” meaning “rice age.” This refers to the way the characters for “eighty-eight” resemble the character for “rice,” a symbol of goodness and abundance. We were delighted that his health is still good enough to enjoy the party. To commemorate the event, I wrote up this summary of his life so far, based on his own recollections.

Salt Spring ...

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Not Made In Japan

Breaking Fast

Breakfasts
Were processed,
Warm and white.

Soup, often corn,
Always a powder,
Poured into a plastic bowl
That looked lacquered.

Added water, 
Boiled in an aluminum kettle 
On the rusting gas table. 

In the shiny red toaster oven,
Toasted a single piece of white bread, 
Soft and square and thick,
With tiny holes
Like styrofoam,
Something to do with Japanese flour. 

On top
Sat a single piece of white processed cheese 
Plasticized
At its melting point. 

In rural Japan,
Real cheese 
Was not a real option.

Sitting at my low table
Quickly break my fast.

Gulp.
Bite.
Chew.
Swallow.
Repeat.

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Not Made In Japan

Feeling Warm at Christmas

One Christmas...

My Mom sent me a turkey one Christmas. It was a frozen, smoked turkey. I invited a bunch of people to my place to eat it. I took out the middle sliding doors of my rooms, so I had a fair amount of space. The tricky thing was that the turkey was too big to fit in my microwave oven. Since it was smoked, I just had to figure out how to defrost it. I ended up using the electric heating element of my table for warming my feet, to warm the turkey. I sliced off bits as ...

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