2010 Nima of the Month

Nima are members of our Discover Nikkei Nima-kai community. Our Nima of the Month are some of our most active participants. Learn more about them and what they like about Discover Nikkei.

January 2010

LeahNanako (Brooklyn, New York, United States)

LeahNanako is a first generation talented HAPA writer in Brooklyn, New York. She has contributed articles regularly since 2008.

What I like about Discover Nikkei is its ability to bring together a community that is often overlooked by society. Growing up hapa in the midwest before the technology revolution was in full force—it was difficult for me to find others who shared similar experiences so I often felt lonely. It’s comforting to know that young people these days have access to such a wealth of information and the ability to connect to those who not only those who share similar experiences, but have access to such an eclectic array of information and written experiences which are flooded on this site, whether it be an essay or a cartoon or simple event postings.

I think a site like DN plays an integral part in shaping the Nikkei/Hapa community and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Read her articles >>

February 2010

intrepidmouse (Chicago, Illinois, United States)

intrepidmouse is an active Nima from Chicago. She posts almost weekly the Nikkei-related events in the Chicago area, has created Nikkei Album collections, and has written an article in the Journal.

I love everything I get to learn about the people on Discover Nikkei.

I enjoy browsing through the Nikkei Album and viewing Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani’s art or looking at events in South America. It’s great to watch the video interview with Kip Fulbeck and see him speaking about the hapa experience. It was fun to read and watch the story and interview about Mike Shinoda and learn that he supports many charities. The Journal is a treasure of stories of real people, from Eric Nakamura, one of the co-founders of Giant Robot, to Dwight Okita, a Chicago writer, to a myriad of diverse stories defining the historical and contemporary nikkei experience.

I get absorbed in showing my friends the Discover Nikkei site. Once, I was up at 2:00 a.m. with a friend searching and finding obscure information about Mexicans of Japanese ancestry. He had just returned from a vacation where he met a Mexican national with a Japanese last name. He was curious and wanted more information. The search brought us back to the Discover Nikkei site! Everyone that I share the site with is astonished by the scope of information collected there. My friends from Japan are mesmerized by the stories in translation.

Most of all I like looking through the events and finding similarities to my own experiences. I share events from my own home town because I want Chicago to be part of this great collection and I look at events in other cities that I can attend when I travel. I like the feeling of being connected to a big international community.

March 2010

Masaji (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Masaji is a Canadian Nikkei writer who has been a Nima-kai member since 2008. He started sharing little known Canadian community stories on our site in August 2009.

Discover Nikkei means “community”.

You may know that here in Canada the homes, farms, businesses and personal possessions of all Nikkei living in coastal British Columbia were confiscated by our federal government and sold, despite their initial promise to return all property. Even after being imprisoned in internment camps, our parents, grandparents and great grandparents were prohibited by the government from returning to live and work in the BC communities where we first settled. Instead we were 'dispersed' to eastern Canada and exiled to Japan.

Even in 2010, the Nikkei community here is a widely scattered one of about 60,000 that is struggling to define issues of common importance; to find forums where we are able to discuss issues of ‘Nikkeiness’: our often times awkward relationship with Japan, its culture and history; and to be involved in the evolving process to find some deeper meaning in identifying ourselves as Nikkei, regardless of where our hearts now call home.

In the absence of so much (e.g., Vancouver’s pre-WW2 Powell Street Japantown), Discover Nikkei, gives each one of us the opportunity to get reconnected with aspects of who we are. Over generations and continents of separateness, Nikkei of all generations can now interact in a “J-town” of sorts that encircles the globe. It’s the beginning of so many wonderful relationships!

Kokoro kara kansha shite orimasu. Arigato gozaimasu!

Read his articles >>

April 2010

silvialumy (São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil)

silvialumy is a Brazilian Nikkei who resided in Japan for a year. She contributed articles about her experiences while there. She returned to Brazil last month.

[PT]
Gosto do Descubra Nikkei porque é uma ferramenta que reúne opiniões, histórias e fotos vindas de usuários de diversos países, mas que apresentam uma característica em comum: são materiais relacionados à cultura japonesa e à comunidade nikkei. É um site em que posso expressar minhas idéias e dividir minhas descobertas, sendo também um meio de contatar outros nikkeis e interessados no assunto.

Leia seus artigos >>

[EN]
I like Discover Nikkei because it is a tool that combines reviews, stories and pictures coming from users from different countries but they have one characteristic in common: they are materials related to Japanese culture and the Nikkei community. It is a site where I can express my ideas and share my findings, and it is also a means of contacting Nikkei and others interested in the subject.

Read her articles >>

May 2010

garyono (Los Angeles, California, United States)

garyono is a Sansei photographer originally from San Francisco who regularly contributes his personal family stories to our site.

For the same reasons that I volunteer at the Japanese American National Museum, I apply them to why I enjoy the privilege of participating in the nationally acclaimed Discover Nikkei Website.

I believe in the primary mission of the JANM to acquire, preserve and share the Japanese American history and the Discover Nikkei website provides a powerful forum for such a mission.

For me as a retired photographer, who inherited the photograph albums of my dearly departed grandmother, mother and aunt, similar goals began to ferment, especially since they contained images of our family “before-, during-, and after-camp.” About the same time a family mystery was unveiled. I learned what my father did during WWII, which led to doing research and producing a video documentary of that revealed mystery in “Calling Tokyo: Japanese American Broadcasters during World War II.”

The project forced me to write, an activity not always on the top of my to-do list, but this led to wanting to write about other family stories discovered during the “Calling Tokyo” project. BTW, “Calling Tokyo” will be shown as a public program at JANM on July 10th, 2010.

Discover Nikkei also has helped to link me to other NIMA members to share in our mutual interests and to learn about what we didn’t know. The Discover Nikkei also provides a wealth of interesting information of other aspects of our culture as well.

I thank the Discover Nikkei staff and volunteers, and JANM for providing the means and the opportunity to acquire, preserve and share my family, Japanese American and American history.

Read his articles >>

June 2010

jkatagi (California, United States)

John Katagi shares memories from almost two decades of travel to South America in his monthly column series. His experiences result from study and observation while working with JEMS, a cross-cultural agency based in Los Angeles.

My interest in Discover Nikkei began when I was still working at JANM [Japanese American National Museum]. I was part of a group that had opportunity to interact with various scholars and visiting lecturers who would pass through the museum’s doors now and then. Meeting folks like Lane Hirabayashi, Masato Ninomiya and reading Akemi Kikumura Yano’s book New Worlds, New Lives, gave me insight into the varied nature of the Nikkei experience.

Combined with my own background as a Nikkei North American, I found my interest stimulated as I read about the successes and the challenges faced by Nikkei around the world. Discover Nikkei became a regular internet stop for me. An opportunity to keep abreast on what has been happening in our community.

I most recently enjoyed Lesley Chinen’s four-part article on the life of Cuban Nikkei. What a great opportunity to learn something that I cannot see firsthand! And thank goodness for Google Translator which helps an English-only speaker access the other superb articles!

Read his articles >>

July 2010

myvisittomanzanar (Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan)

myvisittomanzanar is a “Hapa” Japanese who is very interested in Japanese American history and culture.

[JA]
私は、ディスカバー・ニッケイをとおして、日本語で日系史に関することを書いています。私が常に自分に言い聞かせていることは、日系人に関することをひとつでも多く、日本語で書いて、日本の皆様に伝えていこうということです。

私にとって、ディスカバー・ニッケイは、インターネット上の“日系人の百科事典”です。多くの日系人が、各々の視点で自らの体験などを書き綴っているいるので、幅広い視点で日系人を理解できることがディスカバー・ニッケイの魅力であると私は思っています。

彼のエッセイを読む>>

[EN]
I always look for some effective ways for the Japanese nationals to understand the history of Japanese Americans. I mainly write in Nihongo (the Japanese language), so that the Japanese nationals can easily learn and understand the history.

The Discover Nikkei website, in my understanding, is an online encyclopedia of the Japanese ethnicity. Many people have contributed many interesting articles based on their own experiences, and through reading them, you will acquire a good understanding on the history of people sharing the Japanese identity.

Read his articles >>

August 2010

miam (California, United States)

miam began volunteering for Discover Nikkei at the end of 2009 and is currently working as a summer editorial intern for the project. She contributes articles and posts Nikkei events.

I grew up in many different parts of the country, mostly in neighborhoods without a large Japanese or Japanese American population. So even though my mother is Japanese (Shin-Issei, from Osaka), I never really learned Japanese, or about Japanese and Japanese American history, until college.

I know there is no one Nikkei, Japanese American, or Hapa “experience,” and even people who fit these categories may not embrace them as parts of their identities, depending on the way they grew up. I’ve heard some people say they don’t see the point of being grouped together with others just because of their shared ethnic or racial background—do these ‘accidents of birth’ really mean that we have anything deeper in common? Aren’t we really just focusing on what sets us apart from others rather than using our shared humanity to identify with them?

Though these are huge questions and I can’t answer them for other people, I know that for me, learning about my Japanese roots and about others who share them has been so important in helping me to develop as a person. Whether you live in a large Nikkei community or are the only Asian around for miles (I’ve always been somewhere in between), being able to go to Discover Nikkei and read about strangers who share a small part of your experience but live completely different lives can be comforting and empowering.

I don’t see Discover Nikkei as an end point, where we go to isolate ourselves amongst each other, but as a starting point, a community where we can gain strength and validation that we can take with us into the larger world.

Read her articles >>

September 2010

nmatsumoto (New York, United States)

nmatsumoto is a New York City-based freelance writer who covers culture, food, art, Japanese-American life and history, health, and her West Village neighborhood.

Like most people, my life has different aspects that occupy me to varying degrees each day. One of them, my identity as a Nikkei Sansei, remained invisible for many years. I grew up close to the Los Angeles Nikkei community but not deeply a part of it. Other aspects of life seemed more enticing: the challenge of finding my life's work, seeing the world, maintaining my network of family and far-flung friends. Though the Southern California Nikkei community did not interest me particularly, studying Japanese and living in Japan did. As the place where my grandparents were born, it seemed more authentic to me.

Then almost exactly a year ago, I published my first article on Discover Nikkei. Since then I have learned an enormous amount about Nikkei history and culture in the U.S.: my own parents' history of incarceration during World War II, Nikkei systems of healthcare, even the meaning of the word nima! The idea of a virtual nakama, an inner circle made up of a global community of Nikkei with whom I share a Japanese heritage, is a powerful one.

I have barely begun to scratch the surface of this exciting world, but I have already read fascinating articles about the staunch legal defender of Issei in Los Angeles, J. Marion Wright, the Japanese hospitals of California, and accounts of Tule Lake, Heart Mountain and Manzanar. I have met new friends through DN. I like being able to tune into the Yonsei views of cartoonist Neal Yamamoto, or hear about the issues facing Hapa contributors, some of which my son may one day share. Although I reacted in shock and dismay when he told me recently, "I don't identify as Asian," I also recognized my younger self in him. He is about to begin Japanese language studies this year, and I hope his path will eventually bring him back to his Nikkei heritage, just as mine did. When he is ready, Discover
Nikkei will be there waiting for him, filled with even more original creative content, life stories and living history than it is now.

Read her articles >>

October 2010

albertomatsumoto (Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan)

albertomatsumoto is a Nisei Argentinean who has lived in Japan since 1990. He contributes articles about Nikkei who live in Japan.

[ES] En ocasión de participar en la COPANI de Sao Paulo, Brasil, en el 2007, me he relacionado a este proyecto de Discover Nikkei donde me han permitido transmitir este fenómeno de los “dekasegui” latinos en Japón y su relación con el país de origen. Lo interesante de DISCOVER NIKKEI es que este ámbito virtual permite encontrar muchas referencias, testimonios, crónicas personales y familiares, historias no muy conocidas y opiniones muy diversas del fenómeno migratorio de los japoneses y sus descendientes en el mundo.

En general, uno conoce apenas el ámbito de la colonia o ciudad de origen, su experiencia como hijo o nieto de inmigrante japonés y si no tuviera la posibilidad de conocer, sea en persona o por medios escritos, las experiencias de otros nikkei de otras latitudes jamás lograría tener una visión más amplia y a la vez profunda de sus raíces y de otros nikkei.
Personalmente, me gustan los testimonios de países que no conozco, como ser de los nikkei de los Estados Unidos, Chile, etc. Y justamente por estos lazos virtuales, he logrado interesantes y lindos encuentros con nikkei de otros países que que me han enriquecido mucho.

En tal sentido, leer, opinar, solicitar más información y hacer contactos a través de DISCOVER NIKKEI es una motivación muy grande para el desarrollo de uno mismo y comparar experiencias.

Mi aporte es sobre un fenómeno nuevo que se está dando hace unos 20 años en Japón y es muy diferente a lo que se ha dado en los países del continente americano o en Asia. Son descendientes de japoneses, de segunda y tercera generación con un grado bastante elevado de mestizaje, los que trabajan y viven en Japón y están tratando de abrir un futuro mejor para sí y sus familias. Las experiencias vertidas en Discover Nikkei creo que podrían facilitar la integración social en la tierra de sus ancestros porque aquí se puede “descubrir y redescubrir” su propia identidad.

Lea sus artículos >>

[JA] 2007年ブラジルのサンパウロで開催されたパンアメリカン日系人大会を機に、このディスカバー・ニッケイに参加することになりました。以前から、この事業については多くの友人から聞いていたのですが、私は、この日本で形成しつつある南米の日系人社会について執筆等でお手伝いするようになりました。「デカセギ現象」がはじまって20年になりますが、今後どのような「日系社会」、「ラテン(ペルー/ブラジル)・コミュニティー」になるのか、観察している最中です。

ディスカバー・ニッケイには世界中の日系人の体験や、あまり一般的には知られていない出来事、証言、視点などが盛り込まれており、大いに参考になる情報が盛りだくさんなのです。日系人といえども、その姿は国や地域等によってかなり異なり、このようなサイトがなければ他の国の状況や歴史背景、体験を知るよしもありません。一つのテーマで様々な著者の内容をつなげていくと全体像だけではなく、かなり深く理解することもできます。

個人的には、まだあまり知らない国の日系人のことに興味があります。アメリカやチリ等ですが、このネットワークを通じてバーチャルな関係だけではなく、face to faceの関係を構築し、里帰りの際にはいくつかの南米諸国を訪問して、直接人と会うことが大きな楽しみになっています。こうした交流や意見交換は、自分の思い込みや偏見、今の役割等を検証する良いきっかけになっているのです。ディスカバー・ニッケイは大きな励みになっています。

また、私が提供している情報や感想はこれまでの日系人移民とは異なります。先祖の国である日本に逆移民してきた南米の日系人は、身分的には日系人なのですが、それがこの日本での在留資格や生活が可能にしています。人種的・文化的・法的にはラティーノ(ペルー人、ブラジル人等)であり、時にはアメリカ在住のヒスパニック、スペインに居住しているラティーノアメリカーノの事例の方が参考になることもあるのです。

日本のニッケイラティーノにもディスカバー・ニッケイの情報にもっと触れてほしい、そこで「発見と再発見」をしてほしいと願っている次第です。

彼のエッセイを読む >>

[EN] Since taking part at the COPANI in São Paulo, Brazil, in 2007, I’ve become involved with the Discover Nikkei Project, which has allowed me to expound on the phenomenon of the Latin American dekasegi in Japan and their relationship with their countries of origin. What’s interesting about DISCOVER NIKKEI is that its virtual scope permits the discovery of numerous references, testimonies, personal and family stories, little-known accounts, and a diverse range of opinions about the migratory phenomenon of the Japanese and their descendants around the world.

Generally speaking, a person gets to know only the scope of his own colony or city, his experiences as a son or grandson of Japanese immigrants. Without the opportunity to learn more about the experiences of other Nikkei in other parts of the world, whether in person or through the written media, that individual will never acquire a more ample – and at the same time more profound – understanding of his own roots and of the other Nikkei.

Personally, I like the testimonies from countries I don’t know, such as those from the Nikkei in the United States, Chile, etc. And expressly as a result of those virtual ties, I’ve had some interesting and very pleasant encounters with Nikkei from other countries that have greatly enriched me.

Thus, reading, commenting, asking for more information, and making contacts through DISCOVER NIKKEI are great motivating factors for one’s personal development and for comparing experiences.

My contribution is about a new phenomenon occurring in Japan in the last 20 years; one that is very different from what has taken place on the American continent or in Asia. They are second- and third-generation Japanese descendants with a high level of miscegenation; those who work and live in Japan while attempting to create a better future for themselves and their families. I believe that the experiences found at Discover Nikkei could facilitate social integration in the land of their ancestors because it’s a place where it’s possible to “discover and rediscover” one’s own identity.

Read his articles [ES, JA] >>

November 2010

lthistory (Los Angeles, California, United States)

lthistory (Little Tokyo Historical Society) is the first organization to be selected as Nima of the Month. They were early active participants and supporters of Discover Nikkei, creating several Nikkei Albums, including a comprehensive album about the Oliver sports clubs.

Members of the Little Tokyo Historical Society initially convened in 2006 to promote the preservation of Little Tokyo’s history through publications, exhibits, seminars, nominations of historic resources, street naming, and archiving. Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo is the largest of the United States’ Japantowns, and one of only three still remaining.

Little Tokyo Historical Society members have relied on the Discover Nikkei website for research and access to images from the diverse Nikkei diaspora throughout the world. Though based in Los Angeles, we have been able to learn about other Nikkei enclaves such as Liberdade, Brazil, or one much closer to home, San Jose’s Japantown, through the innovative and comprehensive data available on Discover Nikkei.

While working on our new publication, Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo, researchers and writers perused the Nikkei Album section for detailed and intimate histories of Little Tokyo businesses. We could also learn about the wartime histories of Japanese Peruvians as illustrated in Venancio Shinki’s interview and contrast these experiences with Little Tokyo’s wartime era – the Bronzeville year. To be able to see and hear Nikkei speak of their experiences from other continents in different languages is truly a remarkable feature of Discover Nikkei.

We also enjoy the Events calendar, using it to promote our work as well as to participate in other organizations’ events, and we get to have a glimpse of what is going on in other Japantowns throughout the world. These resources all meld together to create an incredibly diverse, intimate, and far-reaching community of Nikkei.

Check out lthistory's Nikkei Albums >>

December 2010

Lily_Havey ( Salt Lake City, Utah, United States)

Lily is a retired school teacher, pianist, stained glass artist, and watercolorist who now spends her time attempting to unclutter her life and to urge her garden to grow. She is sharing her creative memoir on Discover Nikkei and comments on other articles.

My entries at Discover Nikkei have been, so far, chapters from my yet-unpublished manuscript, "18286: An Exhibit Concerning Internment." The stories evolved from simple captions accompanying my watercolor exhibitions. Curators asked for longer descriptions and I found myself writing personal accounts about Santa Anita Assembly Center and Amache Relocation Center where I spent almost four of my formative years. "Exhibit" refers to these watercolors as well as vintage photographs and artifacts which accompany the writing.

Although I have lived in Salt Lake City since 1945 part of my heart still belongs to California and the childhood memories of the sun and surf and the house on Commonwealth Avenue. Discover Nikkei has been invaluable in helping me "discover" Nikkei people with diverse backgrounds and ideas. I have been told that several of my uncles emigrated to South America so I am fascinated by the accounts by Nikkei living there.

Unfortunately I can only guess the gist of the articles by picking out words here and there in Spanish. I have two sons, Tab and Michael Tadashi, one Japanese-American and the other Norwegian-Swedish Japanese-American, and one granddaughter, Autumn Akiko, a beautiful mix of all of the above plus more. None of them have had strong local Japanese connections.

My hope is that sites like Discover Nikkei will help them find their Asian identities and heritage. May they learn, as I have, from globally shared stories and histories.

Read her articles [EN]>>

Itadakimasu 2! Another Taste of Nikkei Culture

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Discover Nikkei is a place to connect with others and share the Nikkei experience. To continue to sustain and grow this project, we need your help!

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A project of the Japanese American National Museum

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