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

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You Can Call Me Ben

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” (Shakespeare; Romeo and Juliet) William pretty much sums it up for me as far as names go, but it is interesting to learn about how names are determined by different times and cultures.

In Japan, middle names were not used, but in the turn-of-the-century America, Japanese pioneer immigrants, Issei, in most cases gave their Nisei children, second generation Japanese in America, Japanese middle names as well as American names. American names were given in order to ease assimilation into the American ...

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What’s in a Nikkei Name?

Writing assignment: an essay about Nikkei Names. A cinch, until I asked myself the question, “What is a Nikkei name?” As I understand it, Nikkei is the term we are using these days for Japanese in the diaspora? If so, should I write about Japanese names? That would be a short essay, unless I made a list of all the Japanese names I know—actually, it would still be a short essay.

So, if not “Japanese” names, then I’ll write about names people have who are of Japanese ancestry. Easy enough, except that I know little about names. I ...

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Growing Up with a Japanese Name in the United States

My name is Sakura Kato, and just Sakura Kato. I have no middle name or an English name or really anything to signify my identity as a Japanese-American. When growing up, I could never find my name on a pre-made mug or keychain like my friends named “Ashley” or “Christine,” and references to my name could only be found in anime like Naruto or Cardcaptor Sakura. During roll call, my heart would always beat faster and my face would turn red in fear that the substitute teacher would somehow mispronounce my name yet again.

With a name like Sakura Kato ...

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Here’s My Name

My mother wanted to name me Nicolas, after her father. He died when she was still very young. My father was against it. He didn’t want any of the kids named after anyone in the family. He wanted all of us to have our own names. Being, that my dad is a junior, I’m sure the pressure of being named and following in grandfather’s footsteps must have weighed heavily on him.

My grandfather had been a Bracero during World War II, and he became a landowner. He was well loved in the town my dad was born ...

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Don't Call Me Michael!

I was born in Japan. My birth name is Murase Ichiro [村瀬一郎]. My obaachan proposed “Ichiro”—a name not uncommon for a first-born male, but she also had another reason. My grandmother, who taught at Kyoritsu Women’s University in Tokyo, had been a friend of the mother of Hatoyama Ichirō, a Japanese politician who later headed the center-right Liberal Democratic Party and became the Prime Minister of Japan. (He’d be turning in his grave to know that a person with progressive, left-leaning politics was named after him.)

When I came to America at age nine, we first lived ...

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