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 by our Editorial Committee and the Nima-kai. 


Editorial Committee’s Favorites

Nima-kai selection:

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 Hero I Never Met

My hero Is my late father-in-law Yoneto James Nakata. He was the father of my wife, Mary Nakata. She asked me to research her father’s life as she never knew him because he died when she was only six months old.

Over a period of 30 years, I came to know him through the few documents that Mary had. Yoneto Nakata was born in Sanger, California on November 25, 1918 to immigrants from Hiroshima, Japan. They worked in the San Joaquin Valley as farm workers, picking fruits such as grapes and peaches. But in 1925, his parents along with ...

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The Great-Grandmother Damashii

I often could feel the presence of another person, even though nobody was there and would frequently hear voices that only I could hear. It was strange to me and I couldn’t stand it as to why other people couldn’t hear the voices. This was my situation six years ago, during the time when I was diagnosed with schizophrenia by a psychiatrist. I dropped out of college and was involuntarily hospitalized. I had no freedom in the hospital, and the psychiatrists prescribed me strong antipsychotic medicines. The medicines sapped my willpower and motivation and I felt unable to ...

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The Teacher Who Crossed the Ocean

As we commemorate 120 years of Japanese immigration to Peru, I'd like to share a personal reflection inspired by the immigration story of my great-grandmother, who has been an enormous source of admiration for me both as a person and as a woman. Her story is probably similar to that of many other women, a story that is so rarely told. I’m going to take this opportunity to tell it, since it has been 120 years since the Sakura Maru arrived in Callao.

My great-grandmother, Yoshino Sakurai, was from a small town in the mountains called Ojiya, in ...

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A Full Immersion in Today’s LA (Area) Japanese American Community

Being of only Japanese ancestry and growing up in the South Bay (Torrance) I have never questioned whether or not I belonged to the Japanese American community. My generational identity is that I am Yonsei (fraternal) and Shin Nisei (maternal), which put me in situations where I am more “Japanese” than my Yonsei friends, but not “Japanese” enough to really be a Nisei.

The social outlets that I found myself participating in within the JA community was playing basketball, doing Girl Scouts, and dancing hula. Although I do not practice Buddhism, a family summer tradition has always been to go ...

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Hakujin Heroes

“Nikkei Heroes,” the theme of the JANM's Discover NIkkei project, to capture stories about Japanese American trailblazers, role models, and inspirations has featured many Nikkei heroes from the Issei to current generations. Many of the stories are about people who would never consider themselves as trailblazers or role models.

I previously wrote about some of my heroes such as Senator Daniel Inouye, George “Joe” Sakata, and my father, Bill Hosokawa. While searching my memories of my childhood at Heart Mountain Relocation Center and afterward, I have memories of “Hakujin Heroes” such as Ross Wilbur and Pauline Lynam.

* * * * *

It had ...

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