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?

Thanks to everyone who submitted their stories for Nikkei Roots! Our Nima-kai selected their favorites by awarding “stars” to the stories they liked. Voting is now closed. We’ll announce the favorite stories by Editorial Committees on November 21!

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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From Lung to Ito

I am a third generation Chinese American, born on the island of Oahu during the great depression. My grandparents came from Canton, China and, at that time, the Hawaiian Islands were governed by the Royal Hawaiian Kingdom, King Kamehameha’s descendants. When I was born, Hawaii was still a territory of the United States Citizens in Hawaii had no voting rights until the Hawaiian Islands became a State on August 21, l959. By that time, I was twenty-seven years old.

Growing up in the Islands was very carefree for me. Kids mostly did not wear shoes, walked to school unescorted ...

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