Inspire Forward: Nikkei Heroes Under 30

This monthly series features interviews with young Nikkei who are 30 years old and younger from around the world who are helping to shape and build the future of Nikkei communities or doing innovative and creative work sharing and exploring Nikkei history, culture, and identity.  

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Emily Teraoka: Inspiring Conversations through public service at Minidoka National Historic Site

Emily Teraoka grew up around both the Japanese and Mexican cultures that are part of her heritage, but they were sprinkled into a mix of quintessentially American things—country music, pickup trucks, weekend sports, and big Halloween parties around her family’s home in Fresno, California. It wasn’t until college that she began exploring her yonsei Nikkei identity. Today, she is Lead Park Ranger for Minidoka National Historic Site, where she has the opportunity to build relationships and inspire conversations about the legacy of the WWII incarceration camps.

Discover Nikkei reached out to Emily as part of the monthly Inspire Forward series, …

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Nicole Higa Kobashigawa: Volunteer by Vocation

If professional volunteerism were a career, Nicole Higa Kobashigawa might have chosen it. As a student at La Unión school in Lima, she excelled in all subjects, from math to physical education (she even learned to walk on stilts and juggle in a circus workshop). But she wasn’t focused on any subject in particular. That is, until sixth grade, when she volunteered for a leadership program to learn about teamwork and soft skills.

She attended the program every Saturday morning during high school, until two years after graduating, and during vacations she was a counselor in the program for seven-year-old …

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“A Deep Collective Feeling”: Emily Akpan, Black-Nikkei Activist Hero

Emily Akpan is a Black-Nikkei activist living in Brooklyn, New York. She has been active in many social justice struggles, including Tsuru for Solidarity and New York Day of Remembrance. In March 2022, she was kind enough to take time to answer some questions for Discover Nikkei’s Inspire Forward: Nikkei Heroes Under 30 series. Her story is inspiring and provides insights and help for aspiring activists.

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Tamiko Nimura (TN): Congratulations on being selected as a “Nikkei hero”! How do you feel about being selected?

Emily Akpan (EA): Thank you so much! I feel very grateful …

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Graziela Tamanaha: Young Leadership and Inspiration in the Brazilian Nikkei Community—Part 2

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Bunka Matsuri—Bunkyo’s Japanese Culture Festival

“The following year, I was invited to join the communications team at Bunka Matsuri to promote the movie Pokémon: Detective Pikachu. For me, it was a great challenge,” she acknowledges, “because until then I hadn’t been part of any commission that had such a major impact on the community.”

The Bunka Matsuri has always had a traditional format; however, from 2018 onwards it started to change, bringing in more [elements from the realm of] pop culture. In the eyes of this young Sansei, what prevailed was the fear of being …

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Graziela Tamanaha: Young Leadership and Inspiration in the Brazilian Nikkei Community—Part 1

Her father’s family is from Nishihara, Okinawa; her mother’s is from Hokkaido, Japan. Her grandparents were very engaged in cultural activities and following in their footsteps is their granddaughter, Graziela Tamanaha, a 26-year-old Sansei. Boasting an impressive 7-year trajectory in the Japanese-Brazilian community, she started out by attending the main events once a year, then gradually increasing her presence until finally reaching its current full commitment.


Family Roots

“I grew up with two cultures at home,” she says, “Japanese and Uchinanchu [Okinawan, in the local dialect]. For this reason, I feel that I learned everything twice, as each object can …

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activist biracial Black-Nikkei Brazil DOR Emily Akpan Emily Teraoka Graziela Tamanaha Minidoka National Historic Site mixed New York Nicole Higa Kobashigawa Okinawa Peru Psychologist Sansei Tsuru for Solidarity Uchinanchu volunteer