Nanka Nikkei Voices

Nanka Nikkei Voices (NNV) is a publication of the Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California. Nanka means “Southern California.” Nikkei means Japanese American(s).”  The focus of NNV is to record the stories of the Japanese American Community in Southern California through the “voices” of average Japanese Americans and others who have a strong connection to our history and cultural heritage.

This series introduce various stories from the past 4 issues of Nanka Nikkei Voices.

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Channeling Grandma: Passing on the Gardening Genes

I remember walking through my Grandma Kuida’s garden as a child. She had ten or twelve rows of different vegetables growing, and lots of old rusty cans and tools. Along with a bountiful lemon tree, her small backyard garden near Crenshaw and Jefferson was filled with delicious tomatoes, Japanese cucumbers, and zucchinis. When she hunched over with her apron full of fresh-picked vegetables to send home with us, she was 4½ feet tall. But to me, she was a gardening giant.

Before the War, my Issei grandma lived on a cantaloupe farm in Canoga Park, at the west end ...

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Revival: The Rafu Shimpo

On April 4, 1942, The Rafu Shimpo produced its final edition before everyone of Japanese ancestry was unconstitutionally forced to leave the West Coast by the U.S. government. No one, least of all my uncle Aki Komai, could know with any certainty if this was an interruption in the operation of the family newspaper, or its demise. A Nisei and only 32, Akira Komai was thrust into the role of publisher when the FBI came to the family house on 37th Street on December 7, 1941, and took his father, Toyosaku, away. The government incarcerated Toyosaku, without charge and ...

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My Name is “BAKA”: Issei Discipline & Expectations in a Dr. Spock World

As a “baby boomer” raised by Issei parents on a farm in San Jose, CA after the war, I’ve often thought about how different it might have been if I had been raised as part of the “Dr. Spock1 generation” of my suburban hakujin (Caucasian) classmates. I often heard my hakujin friends have discussions with their parents about, (1) why they weren’t allowed to do something; (2) making excuses for not getting something done; or (3) denying blame when they were being chastised for something they did. Such discussions never took place in my house.

In many ...

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Recollections of the Hatchimonji Family

My father and mother, Kumezo and Nobue (Komuro) Hatchimonji (originally spelled Hachimonji) were, like so many other immigrants from Japan, two Issei individuals who came to America to start a new life, a new family, and to seek new opportunities. Like their fellow Issei, theirs was not an easy life but with characteristic patience and hope, they succeeded with a legacy of achievement and pride.

To describe some of the cultural traits that the Issei generation possessed, certain generalizations can be made, characterizations found in my parents. These characteristics are commonly thought of as perseverance (gaman) and an indomitable spirit ...

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How Did a Japanese-English Dictionary Help Secure Our Family Ties?

The dictionary in question is the New Kenkyusha Japanese-English Dictionary, published in Tokyo in 1931. This was a gift from Masaru Miyauchi, my cousin, in Fukuoka Prefecture on my mother’s side, when I graduated from Maryknoll School as an eighth grader in 1932. The dictionary, its binding scotch-taped around the spine now, remains in good use and standing to this day.

During my high school days, Mom kept encouraging me to write letters to my cousin in Nihongo and Masaru-san responded in English. Our letters were truly simple. We were writing about the weather, our high school, and weekend ...

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