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!

What does being Nikkei mean to you? How does your Nikkei identity reveal itself in your day-to-day life? What activities do you engage in to maintain traditions from Japan? Most importantly, how do you stay connected to your roots, whether individually or collectively? When or how you really feel like a Nikkei?

We invite you to share your personal stories and essays, memoirs, academic papers, book reviews, and other prose works that share your perspectives on and experiences with your Nikkei roots. Authors may submit multiple entries.

Submissions will be accepted from May 1 until September 30, 2018, at 6 p.m. PDT.

All stories that meet the project guidelines and criteria will be published in the Discover Nikkei Journal on a rolling basis as part of the Nikkei Roots series.

For more information, visit 5dn.org/roots.


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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My Bachan

We called my Dad’s mom, Bachan. When we visited, she’d offer me a cherry-flavoured cough candy, and I would nod and say, arigato. Every Easter, she sent me and my brothers a chocolate bunny each. She didn’t speak much English and I didn’t speak much Japanese. So I knew her only a little. She was 4’7”, vegetarian, and raised eight kids. She lived 91 years smoking roll-your-own cigarettes. I’ve since realized her life reflects many of the most significant events in Japanese Canadian history.

She was born Taki Kinoshita on February 8, 1889 to ...

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Hidden Memory: A Family History Journey

In my family, we never told stories about the past. No one talked about what it was like to come to the United States from Japan, about the years before and during World War II, or how it felt to be locked up in an incarceration camp behind barbed wire even though you had done nothing wrong. Of course I never learned about the camps in school. I was so unaware of my own family’s experiences that when I was taking a speech class in college and decided to do a speech on the incarceration I dutifully read books ...

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My Nikkei Tradition

Ever since I was six years old, my mom and dad always took my older sister and I to the Nisei Week festival in Little Tokyo of Downtown Los Angeles. I remember my parents buying my sister and I fresh dango and korokke for the first time from one of the many vendors lined up along the village. The sweet sauce from the dango followed by the savory tonkatsu sauce from the korokke went so perfectly hand-in-hand that it became my family’s annual snacking tradition at Nisei Week.

As my family and I roamed around the village, taking in ...

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A Promise

Almost 60 years ago, a promise was made by a girl who was ten years old. I was that little girl and remembered that day very clearly. My best friend, Leslie, came over to play and told me a secret. She said that the man I called “Pop” was not my biological father. I felt hurt and anger towards my mom because I heard it first from a friend. Now, I understood why I had emotions of not belonging, being unhappy, and always feeling lonely. I wanted to know why Mom did not talk about my father. Was he bad ...

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Japanese Hair: A Rambling Exploration of its Cultural, Familial, and Personal Roots

When I enter that “nonki” (as my grandma jokingly calls it) state of being where I sort of zone out of the present time and space, I often find myself ruminating upon the insignificant features of myself. I self-consciously think about the parts of myself I don’t like, which currently is the peeling skin on the back of my legs from a bad sunburn I acquired a couple of weeks ago after entering, you guessed it, my nonki persona, and laying in the 90-degree-hot sunlight too long.

More often than not, however, I find myself playing with the hair ...

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