Canadian Nikkei Series

The inspiration for this new Canadian Nikkei interview series is the observance that the gulf between the pre-WW2 Japanese Canadian community and the Shin Ijusha one (post-WW2) has grown tremendously. 

Being “Nikkei” no longer means that one is only of Japanese descent anymore. It is far more likely that Nikkei today are of mixed cultural heritage with names like O’Mara or Hope, can’t speak Japanese and have varying degrees of knowledge about Japan.

It is therefore the aim of this series to pose ideas, challenge some and to engage with other like-minded Discover Nikkei followers in a meaningful discussion that will help us to better understand ourselves.

Canadian Nikkei will introduce you to many Nikkei who I have had the good fortune to come into contact with over the past 20 years here and in Japan. 

Having a common identity is what united the Issei, the first Japanese to arrive in Canada, more than 100 years ago. Even in 2014, it is the remnants of that noble community that is what still binds our community today.

Ultimately, it is the goal of this series to begin a larger online conversation that will help to inform the larger global community about who we are in 2014 and where we might be heading to in the future.

culture en

Toronto Woodcarver Kats Takada - Part 1

Artists define culture.

Nikkei artists have been helping to define ours for generations. A few who have made a personal impact are novelist/poet Joy Kogawa, writer Ken Adachi, American writers “No No Boy” John Okada of Seattle and “Yokohama, California” writer Toshio Mori, Canadian artists Roy Kiyooka, Kazuo Nakamura, architect Raymond Moriyama (e.g., Canadian War Museum and Ontario Science Centre) as well as the late great filmmaker Jesse Nishihata and emerging ones like Chris Hope and Brendan Uegama.

In their individual ways, these artists have mapped out where we have been and give us hints as to where ...

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identity en

The Indomitable Spirit of Keiko Mary Kitagawa - Part 2

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When I was 48 years old, I went back to the University of British Columbia (UBC) to study the Japanese language and Asian Studies. There I met Professor Rene Goldman who encouraged me to write about my family’s experience during WWII. This was the beginning of my journey into telling the story of what my family had endured after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. 

Professor Goldman encouraged me to write about the internment and to speak about it whenever opportunities arose. I began speaking at conventions, conferences, workshops, schools, community events, universities etc. At first it was ...

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identity en

The Indomitable Spirit of Keiko Mary Kitagawa - Part 1

       “...It matters not how strait the gate,
       How charged with punishments the scroll,
       I am the master of my fate,
       I am the captain of my soul.”

-- From poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)


Who has sacrificed any more to become Canadian than Japanese Canadians, particularly those who lost virtually everything during the World War 2 internment experience?

I suppose that most of our families have similar stories of loss and recovery. From time to time, I think of my grandparents who I remember as always smiling and positive and willing to sacrifice anything for my sake, which they ...

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community en

Fumi Torigai: Evolution of a Canadian Nikkei - Part 2

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Your group was involved in an extraordinary fundraising effort for the 3.11 tsunami and earthquake survivors.

In response to 3.11 Tohoku earthquake/tsunami disaster, the JCAY (Japanese Canadian Association of Yukon) had organized a Japanese Village Festival, and raised over $40,000 to donate to the Japanese Red Cross. The support from Whitehorse and the surrounding community for this event was simply overwhelming! This event served as a catalyst for our association; it fundamentally changed and helped to shape the nature of the organization. It certainly put JCAY on the map of the Whitehorse community ...

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migration en

Fumi Torigai: The Evolution of a Canadian Nikkei - Part 1

Who among us Nikkei has ever wondered about whether our lives might have been ‘better’ had we been raised, educated and worked in Japan?

After I went to teach there in 1995, I started to question whether I could actually live in Japan permanently. To my mind, the lifestyle was preferable in many ways (e.g., teachers are respected, great public transportation, food, the splendid manners of the populace). However, when it came to career related issues, then there was no question that I had to get back to Canada. Without doing so, issues like having a pension and other ...

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