Nikkei Chronicles #8 — Nikkei Heroes: Trailblazers, Role Models, and Inspirations

The word “hero” can mean different things to different people. For this series, we have explored the idea of a Nikkei hero and what it means to a variety of people. Who is your hero? What is their story? How have they influenced your Nikkei identity or your connection to your Nikkei heritage?

We solicited stories from May to September of 2019, and voting closed on November 15, 2019. We received 32 stories (16 English; 2 Japanese; 11 Spanish; and 3 Portuguese) from individuals in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Peru, and the United States.

Here are the selected favorite stories.

Editorial Committee’s Favorites

Nima-kai selection:

* Translations of these selected stories are currently in process.

To learn more about this writing project >>


Check out these other Nikkei Chronicles series:

#1: ITADAKIMASU! A Taste of Nikkei Culture
#2: Nikkei+ ~ Stories of Mixed Language, Traditions, Generations & Race ~
#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

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The Family of Shinjiro Dote and Pre-WWII Japanese of El Dorado County, CA.

The trials and tribulations of pre–World War II Japanese on the West Coast are well documented, but there was a small group of them that were uniquely special and nearly lost to obscurity. The adversity they faced was as unparallel as the historical significance of their community of El Dorado County, CA.

I’m a mixed race Sansei. My family decided in 1971 to leave southern California for the quieter rural El Dorado County in northern California three weeks before the school year ended. I clearly remember my first day at my new school. As the office gal took ...

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My Hero: Shinya Honda

Shinya Honda was my hero because he never looked back. He always persevered and took responsibility for his own life and even took care of his mother and three sisters. Uncle Shin never complained about his circumstances or the terrible events that took place at the age of 15, when his father died.

Above all, I am grateful to Uncle Shin and his whole generation who worked hard to serve our country. In spite of the incarceration in concentration camps and this tragic black mark in American history, the positive attitude of Uncle Shin, being a cheerleader for his children ...

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Mine Okubo

The artist Mine Okubo is most famous for her book, Citizen 13660, a graphic memoir of the Japanese American concentration camps. She became my hero while I was a student at University of California (UC), Riverside in 1979. As a young woman in my twenties, I felt inspired by Mine’s accomplishments as part of the “greatest generation” that survived World War II. She did it on her own terms and without apology. She persevered as a female artist and in life itself. The difficulties she experienced made her stronger. She retained her Nikkei identity and never forgot the Japanese ...

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2 Presidents, 2 Senators, 2 Moms…and 2 Dads, too

My best friend Brenda and I have often talked about how much change and history our parents witnessed over the course of their lifetimes. We are the only-children, daughters of U.S. military fathers who were born and raised in the American South and Japanese mothers.

Our parents lived through much of the history of the 20th century, and we too, as their daughters also are living witnesses to that history.

Beginning in 1985, I had the great privilege of serving as a press aide to two of Tennessee’s U.S. Senators in Washington, D.C. As a high ...

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My Father Was A Tule Lake Resister

I will forever admire my father’s strength and bravery. Despite the incredible challenges he endured during World War II as a young internee in America’s incarceration camps, he lived his life with passion and perseverance.

My father was born in Santa Ana, California on June 6, 1921, to immigrant parents who operated a successful celery farm. When he was five-years-old, he and his parents moved back to Japan to care for his ill grandfather, where he spent the rest of his childhood. Many years later, my grandmother would tell me how smart and studious he was, and that ...

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