Koji's Column

“Koji’s Column” is a column series contributed by Japanese American National Museum staff member, Koji Steven Sakai. His column explores Nikkei identity and culture from the standpoint of a second- and fourth-generation Japanese Americana American male from Southern California.

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What am I?

I did Kendo (Japanese sword fighting) for almost 15 years. I ate rice almost every meal growing up. I understand Japanese. I root for Japanese baseball players. I work at a Japanese American institution. Should I then be considered Japanese? What does that really mean?

To the Japanese, I’m American. I’m different. I’m not like them. I’m their stupid inbred cousin they don’t like to talk about. I remember when I was in Japan as a kid, they outed me right away as an American. They could tell before I said anything. I think it ...

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Citizen First

Anyone who wasn’t actively helping the Jews and other displaced people in Nazi Germany were as culpable for the crimes against humanity as any of the SS soldiers we all like to vilify. The citizens of a country have the moral obligation to ensure that their government does not break international law and/or basic human rights.

Our soldiers are citizens first and soldiers second. Therefore, they have that same moral obligation as all of us. They are not robots that should “just do as they are told.” They need to make certain that what they do does not ...

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Samurais, Ninjas - Oh My!

A good friend of mine who works for a Japanese American historical organization recently received the following e-mail and wanted me to write back to them.

    Dear Sir or Madam:
    Hello. My name is XXXX XXXXXXXXX. I am in the 7th grade at XXXX Middle School in XXXXX, XX and I am in an accelerated education class. We are doing research projects and my topic is comparing Samurai and Ninjas. I need information before XXXXXXXX X, XXXX to write my paper.

    My topic is comparing Samurais and Ninjas, but I divided them into four subtopics which are divided into two ...

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To my unborn child: Tojo Sakai

I am going to name my future unborn child Tojo Sakai. My first generation mom thinks it’s not only stupid but a bad idea. Of course, this is the same parent who told me that I shouldn’t try to grow a mullet. Obviously, she’s an unreliable advice giver and possibly criminally insane.

An informal poll of my friends tells me that they don’t care if I named my kid Hitler. “It’s your kid,” one of them told me, “You can do anything you want. It’s not like you’re going to name my children ...

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