2019 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 2019

gasagasagirl (Pasadena, California, United States)

Naomi Hirahara considers herself a Nisei han—her mother is from Hiroshima, while her father was a Kibei Nisei. A former English editor of The Rafu Shimpo in Los Angeles, Hirahara is the Edgar Award-winning author of the Mas Arai mystery series, which features a crime-solving Japanese American gardener who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. She has also written and edited many other fiction and non-fiction books and articles featuring Nikkei topics and characters.

Hirahara has been a Nima since 2005, and has contributed numerous stories to Discover Nikkei since 2007. Currently, she pens Killer Roll, her seventh serial exclusively for Discover Nikkei; prior serials have ranged from murder mysteries to romantic comedies. Her most recently completed serial, Trouble on Temple Street: An Office Ellie Rush Mystery, featured a character first introduced in published novels. Hirahara was previously selected Nima of the Month in September 2014.

Killer Roll is your seventh exclusive serial for Discover Nikkei. What is special about publishing your stories on the site?

I can be a hundred-percent Nikkei in my stories and unabashedly integrate ethnic specific topics like baishakunin, strawberry growing, Little Tokyo and okonomiyaki.

What is the most meaningful thing that has happened as a result of your connection to Discover Nikkei?

It's been fun to see non-Nikkei wade into the Discover Nikkei waters. I'm glad that they can enter in through either a mystery and rom-com serial; I hope they will hang around enough to learn about Japanese American culture and history.

Read Naomi’s stories >>

February 2019

kateiio (California, United States)

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Kate Lio has contributed several articles to Discover Nikkei as a volunteer writer and recently interview Mark Nagata of the Japanese American National Museum’s exhibition Kaiju vs Heroes: Mark Nagata's Journey through the World of Japanese Toys.

Kate’s father was born in Japan and her mother in Taiwan. She has an older sister and two dogs. Currently, she is studying at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She aspires to build a strong relationship between the US and Japan by cultivating a future of understanding between one another’s culture to create long-lasting relationships.

What do you like about Discover Nikkei and why?

What I love most about Discover Nikkei is its global inclusivity of a group of people that often becomes forgotten or left out in our history. It draws attention and awareness through their articles, interviews, and various other resources, creating a greater widespread understanding of these groups. As a writer for Discover Nikkei (DN), I really enjoy interviewing these figures in our community and analyzing their stories to develop a unique piece to share with readers.

I also really appreciate the accessibility of the website and activeness of our writers. There are so many articles to choose and read from that covers every aspect you could think of within the culture. Every article published provides such a fresh, unique perspective that I feel like I am always constantly learning something new about the community. I am very proud to be a part of the DN writing community and am excited to continue contributing to this great community.

Read Kate’s articles >>

March 2019

KatoSaori (Tōkyō, Japan)

Originally from Yokohama in the Kanagawa prefecture, Kato Saori started contributing to Discover Nikkei earlier this year. Her articles for Discover Nikkei are about Amami Islanders, people who originally hailed from the Northern Ryukyu Islands in Japan, who have immigrated to Brazil. This is closely related to her work at Kanagawa University, where she studied migration and spent one year abroad at São Paulo University in Brazil. In addition to her research she currently serves as an exhibition guide at the Japanese Overseas Migration Museum in Yokohama.

What do you like about Discover Nikkei and why?

[EN] I think that any person at one point in life questions his or her identity. As for me, there was a time when I wanted to find out who I was and where I came from.

My paternal grandfather was not around for as long as I can remember. So, I only know some parts of my roots on his side, which were told by my grandmother.

Luckily, on my mother’s side, I have some clear memories of having communicated not only with my grandparents but also with my great-grandfather. Even my great-uncle and great-aunt are around now, so I have been able to trace back some generations of my maternal roots.

But my paternal roots are simply one mysterious family - my grandparents who so suddenly appeared on earth. With no trace, it’s almost impossible to trace back their roots before their generation. Now that my grandmother, uncle and aunt are gone, my paternal roots will forever remain a mystery. I have lost them.

I want to leave some records of people who migrated abroad from a place called Amami and those of their offspring. I don’t want their offspring to get lost in their roots like I have. When I thought about it, Discover Nikkei seemed like my perfect choice. I thought that those who have some connections to people recorded there might be able to find a path to their roots, as long as this project keeps going with records of Japanese people and their descendants carried on.

I believe that Discover Nikkei is a time capsule, which will carry stories of people who have explored the world from many parts of Japan and those of their offspring, to future generations. I hope that this wonderful project will continue to grow, and its records will be passed onto Nikkei in 100 years from now.

Read Saori’s articles >>

[JA] 誰もが一度は自分が何者なのかを考えるのではないだろうか。少なくともかつての私は、自分が誰なのか、ルーツがどこにあるのかを探したいと思っていた。
 
幸いにも母方は、祖父母に加えて曽祖父とも、実際に触れ合った思い出が私には残っている。それだけでなく大叔父や大叔母までもが今現在も健在なので、私は母方のルーツを数世代前まで遡って知ることができた。

しかし、私の父方の祖父は、物心ついた時には既に語り合える場所にいなかった。だから父方のルーツについては祖母から聞いた断片的な話しか知らず、私にとっては祖父母の世代から突然この世に現れた謎のファミリーでしかない。祖父母より前の世代については手掛かりもなくルーツを辿ることは非常に困難になってしまった。祖母や伯父伯母達も居なくなってしまった今、もう父方のルーツは永遠の謎になってしまった。私は父方のツールを見失った。

「奄美という場所から外国へ渡った人々とその子孫の記録を残したい。彼らの子孫が私のようにルーツの迷子にならないように・・・」。そう考えた時、ディスカバー・ニッケイが最適だと思った。日本人とその子孫の物語が記録されているこのプロジェクトが続く限り、このサイトに記録された人々に所縁のある人達は自分のルーツの手掛かりを得ることが出来るかもしれないと思ったからだ。

ディスカバー・ニッケイは、日本各地から世界を目指した人々とその子孫の記録を後世に伝えるためのタイムカプセルだと私は思っている。この素晴らしいプロジェクトがずっと続いて、100年後の日系人たちにもこの記録が届きますように。

加藤里織さんの記事を読む >>

April 2019

Javiernesto (Lima, Peru)

Javier García Wong-Kit is a Peruvian independent journalist and professor who has written articles for Kaikan magazine, which is published by the Japanese Peruvian Association and is Discover Nikkei’s partnering organization in Peru. He has taught at San Martín de Porres University since 2008 and Universidad Privada del Norte since 2017. He has contributed numerous articles to Discover Nikkei since 2012.

[EN] What is the most meaningful thing that has happened as a result of your connection to Discover Nikkei?

For me, the most important thing is always to meet interesting people who make you believe in the future. I am always happy to find people who have read my articles on DN and who congratulate me for my work. A few years ago, a student from Denmark came to Peru and asked me to guide her in her academic research on the Nikkei. It’s my pleasure to help and collaborate with Discover Nikkei by sharing my work and knowledge.

What has been the most surprising reaction/observation you received by sharing stories on Discover Nikkei?

Recently, I met an editor of a major Nikkei institution who told me she was a reader of my work. I was excited because it is someone who is an expert in editing texts. It also gives me great satisfaction when my interviewees read the articles and tell me that they have been moved by the stories they shared with me, when they see them narrated by someone who has just met them.

Read Javier’s articles >>

[ES] ¿Cuál es la cosa más significativa que ha sucedido como resultado de su conexión con Discover Nikkei?

Para mí, lo más importante siempre es conocer gente valiosa que te hace creer en el futuro. Siempre me alegra encontrar personas que han leído mis artículos en DN y que me felicitan por mi trabajo. Hace unos años, una estudiante de Dinamarca vino a Perú y me pidió que la orientara en su investigación académica sobre los nikkei. Es un placer poder ayudar a través de mi trabajo y el conocimiento que me ha dado colaborar con DN.

¿Cuál ha sido la reacción / observación más sorprendente que recibió al compartir historias sobre Discover Nikkei?

Recientemente, conocí a una editora de una importante institución nikkei que me dijo que era lectora de mi trabajo. Me entusiasmó porque se trata de alguien experto en la corrección y la edición de textos. También me da gran satisfacción cuando mis entrevistados leen los artículos y me comentan que se han sentido emocionados por las historias que compartieron conmigo al verlas narradas por alguien que recién los conoce.

Lea los artículos de Javier >>

May 2019

lthistory (Los Angeles, California, United States)

The Little Tokyo Historical Society (LTHS) was formed in 2006 to commemorate Japanese American and Japanese history and heritage through various means such as archival collections, photos, exhibits, lectures, and workshops. LTHS operates as an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization, comprised of members who have a keen interest in the history of Little Tokyo in Los Angeles.

LTHS has shared events, photos, and stories on Discover Nikkei since 2006. We partnered with them on a project about Los Angeles’ prewar Japanese Hospital in 2010. As well, the organization has shared winning stories from their annual Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest with Discover Nikkei for the past five years. We will be sharing the sixth year’s winners on our site soon. LTHS was previously Nima of the Month in November 2010.

Why has Discover Nikkei been a good partner for the Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest?

One of the most important and fun aspects of Discover Nikkei is that it is a quadrilingual platform (English, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese) which provides opportunities for Nikkei worldwide to discover the many similarities Nikkei still have generations after the Issei immigrants arrived and to share the uniqueness of their rich Nikkei culture in their respective language and local community.

2014 was the inaugural year of the Little Tokyo Historical Society’s “Imagine Little Tokyo” Short Story Contest that has included publishing the winning and honorable mention stories (English, Japanese, Youth categories) each year on Discover Nikkei. This allows for LTHS to reach a very broad audience in terms of seeking fictional stories on Little Tokyo (some winners have never been to Little Tokyo!) and circulating the winning stories to a multitude of readers. Thank you Discover Nikkei!

What is unique about Discover Nikkei that makes it a useful platform and project to partner with?

Partnering with Discover Nikkei has been mutually beneficial and easy since the relationship started in 2010. LTHS (based in Los Angeles’ historic Little Tokyo neighborhood) launched its book, Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo (Images of America, 2010), that year and we worked with Discover Nikkei to create our new profile so that a few of the book’s vintage photos of Little Tokyo and background stories were posted. LTHS has also submitted articles on early Japanese American civil rights pioneer, Yamaguchi-ken native, and Little Tokyo newspaper publisher Sei Fujii. LTHS members and friends have also posted articles on various topics.

Read the Imagine Little Tokyo Short Stories Contest stories >>

June 2019

monakasone (California, United States)

Makiko Nakasone is an Issei journalist who lives with her Sansei husband, Steve and their two sons in La Cañada Flintridge, California and is also the charter president of the Rotary Club of Little Tokyo. She was formerly a staff writer at The Nihon Keizai Shinbun, also known as The Nikkei the world’s largest financial newspapers. Her articles have also appeared in Asahi Shimbun, Japan Times, Sydney Morning Herald, and others.

Makiko began volunteering for Discover Nikkei in February of 2019 and has written articles profiling individuals in Southern California. She hopes to start writing articles in Japanese for Discover Nikkei as well

[EN] What do you like about Discover Nikkei and why?

By nature, I’m a curious person, and Discover Nikkei is the only website where I can learn about other Nikkei in Brazil, Hawaii, and the rest of the US. The stories about other Nikkei inspire me to do more for the community. They also give me great ideas about how best we can promote cultural exchanges and better understanding, which has been my dream since childhood.

For a long time, I confessed I was proud to be “Japanese” and not Nikkei as I am a Japanese citizen, active in my local “American” community. However, after living in Los Angeles for almost 30 years, I realize that I am “Nikkei,” particularly to the eyes of non-Japanese. For Discover Nikkei, I would like to focus on the Nikkei who may not receive the spotlight because they are deeply rooted in the local communities who quietly and surely promote Japanese cultures.

Read Makiko’s articles >>

[JA] ディスカバー・ニッケイの何が好きですか?また、それはなぜですか?

元来、好奇心旺盛の私にとって、ロス以外だけでなく、ブラジルやハワイなどに住む日系人について知ることができるウェブサイト「ディスカバー・ニッケイ」があるのはうれしい。他地域に住む日系人の記事を読むことで、ロスの日系社会にもっと貢献すべきだと促されることもある。また、子供の頃からの夢だった、文化交流や相互理解促進について、より良い方法のヒントも得られる。

長いこと、「自分は、日本人」と思いながら、地元米社会に根付いた生活をしてきた。しかし、30年ほどロスに住み、「私も日系だ」と気づいた。米国人の目には、私は「Nikkei」だ。これからは、日系人として、「ディスカバー・ニッケイ」を通して、スポットライトを浴びることなく、地元米社会で地道に、かつ、確実に文化交流を行っている日系人に焦点を置きたいと思う。

中曽根牧子さんの記事を読む >>

July 2019

sergiohernandez (México, Mexico)

Over the past nine years, Sergio Hernández Galindo has conributed many thought-provoking and insightful articles about Japanese emigration to Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America. In addition to being an author and researcher who has published numerous articles and books, he is an in-demand professor. Sergio has taught at universities in Italy, Chile, Peru, and Argentina as well as Japan. Recently, he was a fellow for the Japan Foundation, which is affiliated with Yokohama National University.

Sergio was previously selected Nima of the Month in July 2016. His submission for Nikkei Chronicles #5—Nikkei Go: The Language of Family, Community, and Culture was selected as an editorial committee favorite.

[EN]
Why is it important for you to share stories of Japanese Mexicans on Discover Nikkei?

The Japanese Mexicans stories are not only interesting but very relevant to understand our history as multicultural countries. I hope these stories will help prevent any kind of racism and intolerance against immigrants in our time.

How do you feel about your stories being translated and read all over the world?

The Discover Nikkei platform has allowed me to connect and meet people from Japan, America, and Latin America. I have shared information on immigrants stories. I feel very happy when I receive mails from Mexico and abroad.

What is the most meaningful thing that has happened as a result of your connection to Discover Nikkei?

Some Nikkei people have asked me for information about their own roots that I have been able to obtain in the archives. As a researcher it has been a rewarding experience.

Read Sergio’s stories >>

[ES]
¿Por qué es importante para usted compartir historias de los japoneses mexicanos en Descubra a los Nikkei?

Las historias en torno a los japoneses-mexicanos no sólo son interesantes sino muy relevantes para entender nuestra historia como países multiculturales. Espero que las mismas contribuyan para evitar cualquier tipo de racismo e intolerancia contra los inmigrantes en nuestro tiempo.

¿Cómo se siente sobre el hecho de que sus historias estén siendo traducidas y leídas en todo el mundo?

La plataforma de Discover Nikkei me ha permitido ponerme en contacto y conocer gente de Japón, Estados Unidos y de Latinoamérica. He compartido información sobre las historias de inmigrantes. Me siento muy contento cuando recibo correos desde México y del extranjero.

¿Cuál ha sido la cosa más significativa que le ha sucedido como resultado de su vínculo con Descubra a los Nikkei?

Algunos personas nikkei me han solicitado información sobre sus propias raíces que yo he podido obtener en los archivos. Como investigador ha sido una experiencia gratificante.

Lea los artículos de Sergio >>

August 2019

kaylatanaka (Torrance, California, United States)

Kayla Tanaka is presently working with Discover Nikkei and the Japanese American Bar Association through a summer internship as part of the Nikkei Community Internship (NCI) program. She is attending the University of California, Riverside (UCR), majoring in economics. Outside of her internship, Kayla is very involved with her community, including the Nikkei Student Union at UCR and the Intercollegiate Nikkei Council.

As part of her internship, she interviewed Judge Holly J. Fujie. An article and video clips from the interview will be available soon. She also interviewed filmmaker Tad Nakamura on his involvement with the At First Light: The Dawning of Asian Pacific America exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum, will be contributing to our Nikkei Heroes series, and worked on other assignments.

What do you like about Discover Nikkei and why?

Discover Nikkei is a resource that can be of use to any generation, both within and outside of the Nikkei community. From the events calendar, interviews, and photo archive there seems to be an endless supply of Nikkei knowledge and stories internationally. Although I grew up in a relatively Japanese American community (Torrance, CA) I was unaware of how diverse the Nikkei diaspora truly is, but after doing research through Discover Nikkei I realized that there is a much broader meaning to the word “Nikkei.”

The Discover Nikkei site does not just provide contextual resources, but also a supportive community of alike and diverse individuals that help each other understand and relate to different Nikkei experiences. This site is a great resource that I hope this generation and following generations learn how to use to its fullest potential.

Read Kayla’s stories >>

September 2019

javapotomac (Maryland, United States)

Members of the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA) include Japanese American veterans of World War II and the Korea, Vietnam, and Gulf wars. Through their newsletter, The Advocate, they have been connecting and sharing stories about Nikkei veterans.

JAVA began sharing their stories with Discover Nikkei this January, written by the association’s researchers as well as by veterans and their families.

We asked Gerald Yamada, JAVA President, what they like about Discover Nikkei and this is what he said:

Discover Nikkei has long been listed on the Japanese American Veterans Association’s “Resource” page and for good reason! Discover Nikkei brings together a unique mix of historical and contemporary articles and issues connected to Nikkei.

While JAVA members are always thrilled to see a profile related to those who served in the 100th/442nd or MIS as well as stories of individuals who were incarcerated in wartime internment camps, we are equally fascinated to read about the rich and varied experiences of those with Japanese ancestry around the world. Indeed, it is not unusual to consult Discover Nikkei for a wide range of interesting articles such as specific information on the 442nd veteran and artist Shinkichi G. Tajiri who created the Friendship Knot in Bruyères, France, to other articles on say the Japanese tradition of “forest bathing.”

Discover Nikkei leads readers to think deeply about shared history; it is an uncommon bridge to commonalities among persons of Japanese ancestry.

Read Japanese American Veterans Association’s stories >>

October 2019

jonathan (California, United States)

Jonathan van Harmelen is currently a PhD student in history at UC Santa Cruz specializing in the history of Japanese-American incarceration. He was introduced to Discover Nikkei by author Greg Robinson, co-authoring an article in April of this year. Since then, he has been contributing diverse stories related to Japanese Americans.

We asked him what he likes about Discover Nikkei and this is what he said:

Discover Nikkei is one of the most innovative and resourceful sites related to public history. By serving as a hub for scholars, activists, and individuals alike to share stories and research, it has created an ideal community for the preservation of Nikkei stories globally. The team at Discover Nikkei have done an excellent job of both showcasing what the Japanese American National Museum has to offer and creating a global network of writers, and I applaud them for this monumental achievement. The stories they have preserved are not only important to the Nikkei community, but are important lessons our global community can learn from.

I am grateful to Discover Nikkei for their support by sharing my articles and for their continued activism related to the history of Japanese diaspora community. I have been fortunate to use Discover Nikkei as a tool for my own research over the years, and for me to be able to contribute my own work has been an immense joy. Along with my mentor and collaborator Greg Robinson, I have enjoyed writing about lost histories for Discover Nikkei that contribute to our greater knowledge of the Nikkei experience.

Read Jonathan’s stories >>

November 2019

densho (Seattle, Washington, United States)

Densho’s mission is to preserve and share stories of Japanese American World War II incarceration to promote equity and justice today. They have be sharing some of these stories with Discover Nikkei since 2006. At COPANI XX in September 2019, we partnered with Densho to present a session titled “Power of Our Stories—Case Studies” where we discussed the importance of preserving and sharing personal and community stories, photos, and videos.

We asked Densho what they like about Discover Nikkei and this is what they said:

Discover Nikkei is an incredible resource to learn about the history of Nikkei communities around the world, and to gain insight into the contemporary storytelling, research, activism, cultural work, and more that is taking place today.

We love that the stories shared through Discover Nikkei are multigenerational, multilingual, and multiracial—highlighting the diversity and vibrancy of the global Nikkei community. It’s vital that these stories are lifted up and kept alive, and we’re grateful that this site helps to uncover little-known chapters of Nikkei history and provide a platform for voices and perspectives that have been previously overlooked.

The information curated by Discover Nikkei, from historical journeys to present-day experiences of people of Japanese ancestry, is absolutely invaluable for anyone interested in expanding their understanding of what it means to be Nikkei.

Read Densho’s stories >>

December 2019

TWATADA (Ontario, Canada)

Terry Watada is a Japanese Canadian author and poet. He has been sharing his stories on Discover Nikkei since December 2017 and has written on a variety of topics including culture, actors, politics, and racism. His poetry was also featured in Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column in November 2019.

We asked him what he liked about Discover Nikkei and this is what he said:

I like Discover Nikkei because it points to and brings to light the common experiences of Nikkei. No matter where Nikkei live, what they do, or what they believe, we all have similar if not the same experiences. We celebrate traditions in the same way, in food, dance, music, ceremony, observances and customs. We share a culture and definitely a history. It makes me feel connected in many tangible and intangible ways.

There are differences, of course, accounted for by the fact that we live in different cultures. Certainly that plays into our approach to situations and attitudes. In Canada, for example, the Nikkei are more dispersed (mainly because of government edict during WWII) than most. Consequently, there is no visible J-town. There are cultural centres, churches and community organizations, however, they are not concentrated in one area. The majority of third, fourth, etc. generation Nikkei tend to reject Nikkei culture: they avoid festivals, institutions and events; they don't eat Japanese or Japanese Canadian food; they out-marry and tend to be negative about their own kind.

There is no sense of community as a result.

In rectifying the situation, Discover Nikkei allows us to learn about each other. To accept and even celebrate the Nikkei ideal. Back in time, I was surprised to find that wise and worldly activists like Bill and Yuri Kochiyama didn't know about the Canadian internment. Bill confessed to me that “You [Canadians] had it a lot worse off than we did.” Instead of having to tour across the US and even Canada, speaking and singing about the Canadian Nikkei experience back in the Redress days, I could’ve directed people to the website. Or at least, use it to enhance wherever I was appearing.

Discover Nikkei then is a treasure-trove of information and opinion about being Nikkei. My only hope is that it continues well into the future and its readership expands exponentially.

Read Terry’s stories >>

Nikkei Heroes: Trailblazers, Role Models, and Inspirations

Read the Nikkei Heroes >>

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