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

Re-Discovering My Name Between Two Cultures

I was born in Hawaiʻi to a Yonsei Japanese-American father and an Irish-American mother who gave me the name Jayme Tsutsuse. Even though Japanese names are common in Hawaiʻi, the name Tsutsuse is rare, and not just in Hawaiʻi or America, but also in Japan. In fact, through all my research, I’ve yet to find a Tsutsuse family line besides my own. I’d even venture to say that I’m the only Tsutsuse currently living in Japan.

Anyone unfamiliar with Japanese will often get tongue tied between the two t’s and three s’s of Tsutsuse. I ...

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identity en

My name has Asia covered: From Asia Minor to Japan

What is in a name? Is your name unique? Have you developed your identity around your name? Were you named after a relative, a movie star, or a song title…? Do you happen to have a surname that is also shared by a famous person? These questions and more usually come to mind when thinking about your name.

As most Nikkei, you probably have encountered multiple mispronunciations of your surname, myself included. I can relate to the “butchering” of the mispronunciation of my last name, Ishikawa. The worst examples come over the telephone by telemarketers. If they can’t pronounce ...

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identity en ja es pt

The Meaning of 'J.'

When I was a child, I used to think my name was too long. So, I shortened it by writing “Henrique J. Minatogawa.” 

Even now, I keep that habit. My friends frequently ask: what does the “J.” mean? It reminds me of that Simpsons episode in which Homer is trying to discover his middle name.

When I answer it is “José,” some do not believe me. I have to show my ID to prove it. “I thought it was Jun,” most of them reply.

I do not have a Japanese name or middle name. Among my Japanese descendant friends, all ...

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identity en

Struggle for Identity

As I think about my name and what it has meant to me over the different stages of my life, I see that my name has not been a constant feature of ME. I have evolved over time and my perception of my name has altered with each modification.

I was born Roy Kermit Uyesugi at the time that the US was brought into WWII by the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.

After our family left the interment camp at Minidoka, Idaho, my father changed the family name from Uyesugi to Wesley. Wesley was the replacement chosen because of the ...

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community en

What's in a Name?

My parents named me Gorobei Yoshida. It is an old fashioned name. My mother said I was named after her grandfather, who was a respected man in our village back in Japan, but my uncle says, that was the name of my mother’s favorite movie star as a teen. Most of my friends call me Goro, at least, the ones who can pronounce my name properly. My father’s Mexican helpers have nicknamed me Gordo. My father is a gardener.

My father moved the family here from Kumamoto prefecture, Japan, when I was 12 years old. As he spoke ...

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