Nikkei Chronicles #7 — Nikkei Roots: Digging into Our Cultural Heritage

Stories in the Nikkei Chronicles series have explored many of the ways that Nikkei express their unique culture, whether through food, language, family, or tradition. For this edition, we are digging deeper—all the way down to our roots!

We solicited stories from May to September of 2018 and received 35 stories (22 English; 1 Japanese; 8 Spanish; and 4 Portuguese) from individuals in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Japan, Mexico, Peru, and the United States. 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, four favorite stories were selected.

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 ~ 
#3: Nikkei Names: Taro, John, Juan, João? 
#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

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Pictures and Poetry: Deepening the Connection to my Japanese Roots

Growing up Sansei in my part of California’s San Gabriel Valley meant you didn’t have to work very hard to stay connected to your Nikkei roots—they were all around you. Every family that lived on our South San Gabriel street was Japanese American. We shared Japanese food, holidays, and a mania for gift giving. Our most exotic neighbors were from Okinawa, which as a child I took to be a country separate from Japan. Our local Issei “fish man” would come by weekly his truck to sell the neighborhood moms sashimi-grade tuna and fresh tofu, and our ...

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Magic, the Nikkei Way

Since the age of ten I’ve been a magician. I spent many hours during my childhood wearing a top hat and cape, waving a wand and brandishing a deck of cards. I’ve long since abandoned those Victorian accoutrements but have continued to work sleight of hand amusements for audiences in hotel banquet halls, living rooms, and theaters.

As in other art forms, the world of magic looks to master practitioners of its past. The magic inventions of these past masters all carry the stamp of their individual styles—a sleight of hand sequence with cards by Dai Vernon ...

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Hometowns

I wanted to walk where my grandparents, Hikosaburo Okamura and Tsuru Uyeta, walked.

In the early 1900s, they left Japan and came to America. I did not speak Japanese. My grandparents did not speak English. I remembered no stories about their lives in Japan.

There is a Japanese song, Furusato by Angela Aki, which says:

“Home is always calling out my name.”

If I visited their Hometowns, would they call out my name?

The unprepared visitor

One month before my Japan trip, I did not know my ancestral villages. My grandparents came from Fukuoka, Japan. This is an area the ...

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Meeting the Kumamoto Relatives

My first trip to Japan was in the summer of 2016. I was very nervous about meeting my recently-discovered Minami relatives, on my dad's mother's side. What  if  I didn't like them or if they didn't like us? I brought a whole suitcase of gifts or omiyage, carefully selected from Trader Joe's.

I was visiting my son, Kenzo, who was doing a semester of study abroad during his junior year at U.C. Berkeley. The last time we had traveled together had been when he was in high school, not happy to travel with mom ...

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Crossing the World

Origami is a means of communication and expression; it's a universal language that brings together different generations and peoples around the same activity.”

—Mari Kanegae

Toshi came to Brazil on a paper bird.

When her granddaughter, born in the oh-so-far-off city of Londrina [the second largest city in the Brazilian state of Paraná], went to Japan to meet her, she realized that she would have to renounce words to communicate with the little girl. She folded a tsuru. She most certainly couldn't have imagined that the bond then created would cross oceans and time itself.

More than two ...

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