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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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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Brigadier General Kendall J. Fielder: Champion of the Nisei in World War II

A few years ago, my wife and I visited the Punchbowl Cemetery in Hawaii in search of her grandparents’ grave. At the visitor’s center, we were met by two Japanese American (JA) World War II veterans. When I mentioned we were searching for Brigadier General Kendall Jordan Fielder’s grave, one of them responded, “Oh! He saved our bacon several times during World War II.” Without Fielder’s influence in the early days of World War II, the fate of nearly 160,000 people of Japanese descent in Hawaii, might have been drastically different.

In November 1938, “Wooch,” a ...

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Medal of Honor Heroes: Daniel Inouye and Joe Sakato

Heart Mountain, Wyoming, 1943. My uncle Kenney Miyake visited us. Uncle Kenney is my mother’s brother. They were born in Portland, Oregon. He wore the uniform of the 442nd Infantry Battalion.

He reached into his travel bag and showed me his Army 45, a monster gun in my little hands. On his uniform was a medal, a Purple Heart because he was wounded in Italy. I wanted to wear a uniform just like my Uncle Kenney. I wanted to be a soldier, but I was only three years old.

After Heart Mountain, during my childhood, boys liked to ...

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Bill Hosokawa: Out of the Frying Pan

He sat in his special chair, a blanket covered his knees, the sun warming him. Around him lay the ruins of five newspapers. His morning task was complete now, he had checked on the world. He wanted to see how newspapers covered the same stories. At the end of a remarkable career, he was still the ultimate journalist.

Bill Hosokawa was in the ninth decade of life, his 70th as a journalist. Shortly, he would move to Seattle to live with his daughter. Life began in Seattle 92 years ago, and, like the storied salmon, he would return and ...

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