Tim Asamen

Tim Asamen is the coordinator of the Japanese American Gallery, a permanent exhibit in the Imperial Valley Pioneers Museum. His grandparents, Zentaro and Eda Asamen, emigrated from Kami Ijuin-mura, Kagoshima Prefecture, in 1919 and settled in Westmorland, California, where Tim resides. He joined the Kagoshima Heritage Club in 1994, serving as president (1999-2002) and as the club's newsletter editor (2001-2011).

Updated August 2013

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Nikkei Chronicles #9—More Than a Game: Nikkei Sports

George Taniguchi: The Nisei Who Took Horse Racing by Storm - Part 2

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A wall in George’s home is adorned with three large, framed collages, each one highlighting a milestone race in his career: his first win, his biggest monetary win, and one race that made horse racing history. His very first race took place on March 8, 1954, at Bay Meadows in San Mateo. “I was pretty nervous on that. I tried to hide it but my hands were all wet.” His first mount was Radio Message and he came in a respectable third. Three days later the same track was sloppy; that is, wet and muddy. But ...

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Nikkei Chronicles #9—More Than a Game: Nikkei Sports

George Taniguchi: The Nisei Who Took Horse Racing by Storm - Part 1

Strength is not just a tool for winning, it is necessary for survival. Jockey Johnny Longden was once rammed in midrace, knocked from his stirrups and sent flying downward in front of a pack of horses. He was saved by a jockey riding alongside him, George Taniguchi, who was so powerful that he was able to catch Longden with one hand…and righted him in the saddle, also with one hand. Incredibly, Longden won the race. The Daily Racing Form called it “the ultimate impossibility.”

From Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit: An American Legend (2001)

Not long after Laura Hillenbrand’s ...

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The Issei Lexicon

For years I wanted to compile a list of Japanese American words and phrases. I am beginning a list for this article with words that, for the most part, came down to us from the Issei generation. I am not talking about standard Japanese terms, such as shoyu (soy sauce) or urusai (irritatingly noisy), which most Nikkei say or understand, because they have the same meaning in Japan today. My focus is on words or expressions that have become uniquely Japanese American for reasons that I explain below.

I should note that I am using italics for standard Japanese words ...

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Japanese American Name Culture - Part 2

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Cultural Heritage and Assimilation

The names that immigrant parents select for their American-born children say something about culture, customs, hopes, and dreams.

In a previous article I wrote about the popularity of the name George for Nisei boys. Most of them were named after George Washington. But some of them were actually named after the reigning sovereign of Great Britain at the time of their birth, such as actor and activist George Takei who was named after King George VI.

Names can reflect a desire among Issei to maintain a cultural connection and sense of pride in ...

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Japanese American Name Culture - Part 1

Is it Eisenhauer or Eisenhower? Gonzalez or Gonzales? Yasuzo or Yasudo? Whether they are misspellings, attempts at assimilation, or expressions of individualism, the variations in the spelling of immigrant names make up a distinctive feature of the American experience. (By the way, that is why I am not keen on the idea of standardizing the spelling of Nikkei names – say, in accordance with the modified Hepburn system – for bibliographies and even library and archival collections.)

Nikkei name culture begins with the romanization of Japanese names. Upon arriving in America, the Issei had to learn how to write their names in ...

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