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

identity en

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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identity en

Becoming Half

My mother is Japanese and my father is American. I am half-Japanese. Ha-fu. Some people dispute this term. They call mixed-race people ‘doubles’, to reflect that fact that both ethnicities exist at once. I do not identify as ‘double’. I identify as American. I know nothing else. My Japanese half is a hazy cloud of Japanese TV shows, the smell of tatami and fish, and a smattering of random words, all of which were slowly fading from memory. The older I became, the more empty-space filled the Japanese half of me. So, I moved to Japan.

After moving here, I ...

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culture en

The Power of Dance for Social Advocacy

In spring 2017, I decided with the recent political climate that I could no longer wait for someone else to “do something.” At the time I was a dance graduate student so I decided to choreograph a dance entitled Shikata ga nai at the University of California, Irvine. Shikata ga nai is a Japanese phrase translating to “it cannot be helped.” This was an expression used by many Japanese people when faced with the injustice of being detained in internment camps, signifying their ability to maintain dignity despite uncontrollable circumstances.

My piece featured an audio interview of Yae Aihara, a ...

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community en

Catching Nikkei

Rocking back and forth on top of rolling waves with a cool sea breeze, my arms are burning as I stumble about with my hands curled tightly around my fishing pole. I am being dragged across the boat by a fish on the other end of my line. I concentrate on not losing this fish, but it is pulling so hard that you would think it was a shark. Every time I gain some line on my reel the fish pulls more out to sea. After forty minutes of back and forth with this fish, I finally see it near ...

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food en ja es pt

The Mochitsuki Tradition in the Hikari Group of Londrina, Paraná

In Brazil, mochi – little cakes made with a glutinous Japanese rice known as mochigome – are easily found in supermarkets, street markets, and specialized grocery stores in areas with a large concentration of Japanese immigrants and their descendants.

Most of those who see this product stocked on supermarket shelves are unaware of its origins and meaning in Japanese culture.

In the past, the mochitsuki – pounding mochi – was a more laborious process as the cakes were made in artisanal fashion to celebrate special occasions like weddings and, of course, New Year celebrations – for the Japanese, the oshogatsu.

The mochigome was soaked in ...

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