Nikkei Heritage

This series republishes selected articles from Nikkei Heritage, the quarterly journal of the National Japanese American Historical Society in San Francisco, CA. The issues provide timely analysis and insight into the many facets of the Japanese American experience. NJAHS has been a Discover Nikkei Participating Organization since December 2004.

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Intermarriages and Hapas: An Overview - Part 1

To be biracial and Japanese American means having many different labels from which to choose. For this historical overview, we will use “Hapa”, a term popularized by the Hapa Issues Forum, to mean people who have an Asian/Asian Pacific Islander parent and a parent of any other race. Our focus here is on those with a Japanese or a Japanese American parent.

There is no single Hapa experience. Over the decades, Hapas have had widely different experiences based on individual circumstance and background, as well as the time period and environment into which they were born. The history of ...


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A Meditation on Nikkei Style

How do we define "the way of the Nikkei"? As Japanese Americans assimilate into the wider society through intermarriage and migration, many community leaders have begun to question what constitutes the Nikkei identity and whether our community is disappearing due to lack of new Japanese immigration. Although I understand their concerns, I believe their worries are misplaced for several reasons.

Nikkei identity is not limited to people with two Nikkei parents. Today, up to 90 percent of the Yonsei and Gosei, including all of my nephews and nieces, are "hapa" (half Asian Pacific American) or, as I prefer to call ...


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A quiet revolution is underway, led by young Japanese-American visionaries who are redefining urban fashion on their terms. Their mediums are varied, and their approaches multi-hued, but collectively they represent a new brand of creativity and entrepreneurship that would make their Issei ancestors proud. They are Nikkei fashion designers who have chosen the medium of textile architecture to express themselves and their dreams.

You might not know that the Asian American T-shirt underground was launched from a single-car garage in suburban Gardena, California, but college students nationwide do. Ryan Suda, aka “the Godfather of T-shirts,” started his Blacklava clothing line ...


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Still Swingin'

I had no misgivings about my 65th birthday. But when the day finally arrived, an overpowering feeling gripped me. A voice echoed and re-echoed: "Senior citizen, senior citizen, old, old, retire, retire!"

Clearly, I do not feel as if I were a member of the ever-expanding population of the elderly. I still get my kicks "getting down" to funky Motown tunes (Marvin Gaye's "Heard It On The Grapevine" is still a favorite). Forget "In The Mood." Got rid of my plaid pants and baggy-sleeved golf sweaters years ago. I connect comfortably with the Sansei "Pepsi generation." Yet, the outer ...


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Snowflakes in a Valley of Fire

My mother told me one day that fear was useless in her life. Her statements confront what many of us believe peace should be—obedience, disciplining ourselves to be docile, good citizens, with fear not far behind our actions. Fear of not being seen as an American, fear of being interned again at the drop of a hat, fear of doing ‘wrong’ in the eyes of the US government or Japan—fear has been a constant presence for many Japanese Americans. My mother has always wanted a life which resisted these norms. For her, docility meant conformity to norms of ...