Nikkei Chronicles #3 — Nikkei Names: Taro, John, Juan, João?

What’s in a name? This series introduces stories exploring the meanings, origins, and the untold stories behind personal Nikkei names. This can include family names, given names, and even nicknames!

For this project, we asked our Nima-kai to vote for their favorite stories and our editorial committee to pick their favorites.  

Here are the selected favorite stories. 


 Editorial Committee’s selections:

  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 ~
#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

identity en ja es pt

Who am I speaking with?

Rrrring! Rrrrring! “Hello?” “Who am I speaking with?” “........” I needed some time to answer who it was. I was trying to recognize the voice at the other end of the line before saying my name. My relatives and my family and nihongogakko friends call me Mamoru, but everybody else knows me as Claudio. Mamoru isn't found in official documents, but some people, even my relatives, either don't know or don't remember that I'm also Claudio. When I learned that my wife Cristiane was pregnant, I was sure of one thing: my son won't have to ...

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identity en

That’s Not My Name

I grew up resenting my name. It was too ethnic, too different, too confusing.

My mother is a third-generation Japanese American. My maternal grandparents were children of Japanese-speaking farmers who had emigrated to the United States before WWII and subsequently were interned (at the same camp, no less). My mother and her siblings do not speak Japanese nor do they have Japanese names because, according to my late grandfather, they were Americans. And this is not Japan.

My late father was a proud Italian who never sought U.S. citizenship because, to him, no other country in the world is ...

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identity en ja es pt

My Experience as a Dekasegi

My parents are Japanese (my father is from Kagoshima; my mother from Ehime), which firmly rooted my sentiments towards Japan until I was able to travel there myself.

I used to dream of finding my father’s family, but that dream was only a fantasy with the high cost of travel, lodging, learning the language, and limited income as a public employee. As a professional and government official in Peru, I had a low salary just like all public employees. My wife’s job as a teacher allowed us to live comfortably without major financial problems. We lived in [the ...

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identity en

Don’t Call Me Victoria, Vicki, Vikki, or Binky…

When my mother was pregnant with me…in the time before ultrasounds…Dr. Shigekawa (many Los Angeles area Japanese Americans of several generations were delivered by her) told her that I would be a boy. So, my parents had decided to name me Richard Murakami.

When I came out…surprise! It’s a girl! I’ve never asked why, but my mother decided to name me after a soap opera character—Victoria from One Life to Live. However, they didn’t name me “Victoria”—my legal name is “Vicky.” The character’s nickname is Vikki (who also suffers from multiple ...

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identity en

What's in a Name?

On my early morning walk the other day, I heard behind me, faintly, in the distance, “Sochi, Sochi…” I wondered, is someone trying to channel the Olympics but didn’t look back, just kept on going. Then the sound caught up with me. It was Flossie from the same senior citizens’ building where I live.

“I’ve been watching the Winter Olympics on TV and I finally got your name straight…Sochi.” Close enough, I thought, she had already gone from “Soxy” to “Sascha” to “Saki.”

Mine is such a simple name to pronounce even for non-Japanese. What if I ...

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