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

Mark Yungblut Interview: Portrait of a Young Kiri-e Artist - Part 1

Among the remarkable generation of Canadian Nisei artists, there are names like Roy Kiyooka (1926–1994), Kazuo Nakamura (1926–2002), Nobuo Kubota (1932– ), and Takao Tanabe (1926– ), among many others, who grew up during the internment years and gave expression to their personal experiences.

The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC) in Toronto has recently been featuring work by an outstanding new wave of Nikkei artists, some of whom have introduced to Discover Nikkei readers already: Linda Ohama, Emma Nishimura, Kats Takata, and Hitoko Okada.

It is significant that these artists offer both intergenerational and cultural bridges to understand the ongoing ...

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Hamilton Fashion Designer HITOKOO - Part 2

Read Part 1 >> 

Can you describe your work as a designer? Are there particular aspects of your design that might identify you as Nikkei?

My clothing designs come out of the concepts I explore in my art practise. I use the same representational motifs from my art work in my clothing designs.

For example in my “Hive” series I use the image of a honeycomb cell to represent work, labour, and creation of the working class. I make a paper lace of honeycombs, like an ethereal screen or barrier, and a momigami paper dress with an image of gold smoke ...

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culture en

Hamilton Fashion Designer HITOKOO - Part 1

“My craft practise connects me through lineage, to my ancestors. As I make, I think about how my maker hands connect me across the ocean divide beyond land and time.” —fashion designer Hitoko Okada

Growing up Nikkei in the cultural vacuum of a small rural community outside Toronto in the 1970s, one had to struggle for every scrap of positiveness that could be found in being of Japanese descent. This was well before anything “Japanese” was ever considered “cool”.

I find it significant now in middle age to reflect on the importance of my moves to BC, living on the ...

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identity en

Toronto Artist Emma Nishimura: Mapping Out Nikkei Identity

The black person is the protagonist in most of my paintings. I realized that I didn’t see many paintings with black people in them.
                                     —Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988)

One thing that I have learned in my own ponderings about my identity of which “Nikkeiness” is a significant part, it is that tracing the sources to the essence of who and what we are is not always easy.

This really struck me on a recent visit to see an outstanding exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto of the NYC artist Jean-Michel Basquiat whose own struggles with ...

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education en

Educating Kana: PhD Student Studies Canadian Nikkei Education

What, if anything, makes us uniquely Canadian Nikkei? 

In many ways, we are very much like Nikkei in the United States as we’ve grown up in similar cultural environments, schools, churches and even immigrated from the same places in Japan.

Our histories around World War Two are vastly different in some ways but starkly different when it comes to the military duty (American Nikkei were allowed to fight and did so with distinction versus Canadians who at the behest of the British only saw military service as translators and interpreters at the end of the war) and then there ...

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