Nikkei Chronicles #5: Nikkei-go: The Language of Family, Community, and Culture

Arigato, baka, sushi, benjo, and shoyu—how often have you used these words? In an informal survey conducted in 2010, we found that these were the most frequently used Japanese words among Japanese Americans living in Southern California.

In Nikkei communities around the world, the Japanese language symbolizes the culture of one’s ancestors, or the culture that was left behind. Japanese words often get mixed in with the language of the adopted country, creating a fluid, hybrid way of communicating.

For this series, we asked our Nima-kai community to vote for their favorite stories and an editorial committee to pick their favorites. In total, five favorite stories were selected.

Here are the selected favorite stories.

  Editorial Committee’s Selections:

  • PORTUGUESE:
    Gaijin 
    By Heriete Setsuko Shimabukuro Takeda

  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 ~ 
#3: Nikkei Names: Taro, John, Juan, João? 
#4: Nikkei Family: Memories, Traditions, and Values 
#6: Itadakimasu 2!: Another Taste of Nikkei Culture

food en

Cindy Mochizuki's PAPER: a meal within a story; a story within a meal.

It’s a misty Sunday afternoon, and I am walking down to the ferry dock at the Yaletown Marina. I barely make the recommended 3:15 p.m. arrival time, and a small group of about twelve people is already waiting. Among the group I’m happy to see Momoko and Maki, who both used to work with me until recently at the museum, local writer Lydia Kwa, and of course Cindy Mochizuki, the artist who has brought us all out here.

Cindy’s assistant hands out oversized headphones and gives us instructions on how to handle them. Don’t ...

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identity en

You-mo? Me mo!: Nisei Language and Dialect

I don’t have a PhD in linguistics but I hope that a budding linguist major will get interested in this topic. In Hawaii, the first boat load of about 150 Japanese immigrants came to this island as sugar cane laborers in 1868. It was called Gannen-mono, first-year people. However, it proved to be an unsuccessful venture. They were city dwellers, not really farm workers. Nearly one third of gannen-mono immediately returned to Japan because of their work conditions. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act came into effect once the US took hold of Hawaii. Therefore, a considerable work force ...

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community en ja es pt

The Chuo Gakuen School: The Seeds of Prestige for the Japanese Community in Mexico

For 72 years, the Chuo Gakuen school has provided Japanese language and cultural education to Nikkei and Mexican children. The school, located in a modest neighborhood in the center of Mexico City, is celebrating this anniversary thanks to the hard work and tenacity of many people who have made sure this educational project stays alive. Japanese pioneers, since the school’s establishment in 1944, always considered education to be their primary responsibility, in order to create a better future for their children born in Mexico.

The Chuo school was founded during the war, during the most difficult and complicated time ...

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education en

Minato Gakuen Now

The Class of 2016 graduating from Minato Gakuen was congratulated once in San Diego in mid-March and again in Kyoto in early April. Here’s chapter and verse of the life spanning story and the fruits of the concerted service and dedication of all those parties involved.

Minato Gakuen was established in 1978 as a Nihongo Hoshuko (Saturday Japanese Supplementary Language School) in San Diego primarily for the Japanese expatriate children. Most expatriate’s term of assignment range from 3–4 years and during that time, the parent’s biggest headache was that their children could face hardship upon their ...

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identity ja

三人の子どもたちへ —お父さんの多言語生活体験—

三人の子どもたちへ

こんにちは。元気ですか?

君たち三人は、このアメリカという国で生まれて、家の外では英語で、そして家の中では日本語を話すという多言語な生活をしていますね。現地の学校に通いはじめてから英語がとても上手になってきて、英語で話しをするのは簡単だと思って欲しい反面、日本語で話しをしたり、聞いたり、書いたり、読んだり、考えたりすることは面倒くさい事だとは思わないでいてほしい。お父さんも子どものころは、メキシコに住んでいたので、家の外ではスペイン語、家の中では日本語という生活をしてきました。

今日はお父さんの子どもの頃から今に至るまでの経験を伝えながら、君たちに多言語は面白いという事を感じてほしいと思います。

さっきも言ったけど、お父さんは、メキシコで生まれて高校を卒業するまでメキシコに住んでいました。君たちのメキシコのお祖母ちゃんこと、お父さんのお母さんが ...

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